Updated:
Original:
Year
1910
Month Day
October 01

A bomb explodes in the Los Angeles Times building

A massive explosion destroys the Los Angeles Times building in the city’s downtown area, killing 21 and injuring many more. Since Los Angeles Times publisher Harrison Otis, a virulent opponent of unions, believed that the bomb was directed at him, he hired the nation’s premier private detective, William J. Burns, to crack the case. In addition to printing numerous editorials against unions, Otis was the leader of the Merchants and Manufacturing Association, a powerful group of business owners with extensive political connections.

Burns’ investigation led him to the Bridge and Structural Iron Workers Union and their treasurer, John J. McNamara. In April 1911, after Burns got a confession out of Ortie McManigal, who had allegedly been the intermediary between McNamara and two bomb experts, he personally arrested John McNamara and his brother in Indiana. Without any legal authority, Burns also managed to get the brothers to California, where they were to be prosecuted.

Union members and left-wing supporters rallied around the McNamara brothers. After a large defense fund was raised, union representatives pleaded with Clarence Darrow to take the case. Darrow, who was the best defense attorney America had to offer, had already gotten “Big Bill” Haywood, the union leader of the Industrial Workers of the World, off on murder charges in Idaho a few years earlier. Offered $50,000, he reluctantly took the case.

Even though public opinion supported the McNamaras, Darrow’s own investigation was turning up evidence to prove that the brothers were actually guilty. Even worse, members of the defense team were trying to bribe the jury just to keep up with the prosecution’s own bribery tactics. Darrow worked out a deal with Otis and the prosecutors that the brothers would plead guilty to escape the death penalty, which they did.

Nevertheless, this resolution was not satisfactory to either side, and Darrow got caught in the middle. Otis arranged for Darrow’s prosecution on bribery charges, and the union deserted the great defense lawyer. Not only did they refuse to pay his fee for the McNamara case, they refused to assist in his defense. Earl Rogers, a notorious drunk, but also a brash, formidable, and effective Los Angeles attorney, took Darrow’s case.

After a long trial, Rogers secured a mistrial for Darrow, who was later acquitted after a second trial. Darrow went on to try even more distinguished cases, including the Leopold and Loeb murder trial and the Scopes evolution trial.

FACT CHECK: We strive for accuracy and fairness. But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us!

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Suicide bombers stage attacks in Bali

On October 1, 2005, suicide bombers strike three restaurants in two tourist areas on the Indonesian island of Bali, a popular resort area. The bombings killed 22 people, including the bombers, and injured more than 50 others. This was the second suicide-bombing incident to rock ...read more

Lawrence of Arabia captures Damascus

A combined Arab and British force captures Damascus from the Turks during World War I, completing the liberation of Arabia. An instrumental commander in the Allied campaign was T.E. Lawrence, a legendary British soldier known as Lawrence of Arabia. Lawrence, an Oxford-educated ...read more

Nazi war criminals sentenced at Nuremberg

On October 1, 1946, 12 high-ranking Nazis are sentenced to death by the International War Crimes Tribunal in Nuremberg. Among those condemned to death by hanging were Joachim von Ribbentrop, Nazi minister of foreign affairs; Hermann Goering, founder of the Gestapo and chief of ...read more

Yosemite National Park established

On October 1, 1890, an act of Congress creates Yosemite National Park, home of such natural wonders as Half Dome and the giant sequoia trees. Environmental trailblazer John Muir (1838-1914) and his colleagues campaigned for the congressional action, which was signed into law by ...read more

Roger Maris breaks home-run record

On October 1, 1961, New York Yankee Roger Maris becomes the first-ever major-league baseball player to hit more than 60 home runs in a single season. The great Babe Ruth set the record in 1927; Maris and his teammate Mickey Mantle spent 1961 trying to break it. After hitting 54 ...read more

Jimmy Carter is born

On October 1, 1924, future President James Earl Carter is born in Plains, Georgia. Carter, who preferred to be called “Jimmy,” was the son of a peanut farmer and was the first president to be born in a hospital. Carter was raised a devoted Southern Baptist and graduated from the ...read more

Mao Zedong proclaims People’s Republic of China

Naming himself head of state, communist revolutionary Mao Zedong officially proclaims the existence of the People’s Republic of China; Zhou Enlai is named premier. The proclamation was the climax of years of battle between Mao’s communist forces and the regime of Nationalist ...read more

Confederate spy Rose O’Neal Greenhow dies

Confederate spy Rose O’Neal Greenhow drowns off the North Carolina coast when a Yankee craft runs her ship aground. She was returning from a trip to England. At the beginning of the war, Maryland native Rose O’Neal Greenhow lived in Washington, D.C., with her four children. Her ...read more