History Personified

"History Personified" is a history podcast that takes listeners deeper into different historical stories and eras. From military, to politics, to film, television, and radio, to sports, and more, "History Personified" will help bring listeners closer to the stories behind interesting historical events and figures.
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"History Personified"

Feb 10, 2017

True Crime History Month continues on "History Personified," as we just into part II of our series on the death of boxing legend Sonny Liston. On this show, author and longtime writer Shaun Assael, who wrote "The Murder of Sonny Liston: Las Vegas, Heroin, and Heavyweights," dives into the nuts and bolts of Sonny's death. 

Liston was found dead in Las Vegas by his wife, Geraldine, on January 5, 1971, though the coroner stated he had died several days earlier. Geraldine didn't call the police for several hours, using the time to contact others, bring in her own doctor, and clean up. Yet, heroin was "found" at the home once the cops did arrive. Was it planted? From drug dealers, to mobsters, to boxing underworld figures, to cops gone bad, to women, there are so many that might have wanted Sonny dead that it boggles the mind. So what really happened to Sonny? We discuss the theories, as well as new information Shaun's investigative research uncovered. 

#truecrime #boxing #history #podcast

Feb 3, 2017

It's True Crime History Month on "History Personified!" In the first episode of a two-part series, we talk with author and longtime writer Shaun Assael on Las Vegas in the late 1960's and the death of boxing legend Sonny Liston, specifically focusing on his formative years and boxing career.  

Former heavyweight boxing champion Sonny Liston, who fought Muhammad Ali twice, was as polarizing a sports figure as you can will across. Intimidation personified, Liston struck terror in the heart of many an opponent with his hulking frame and stare. And yet, he was brought to his knees by his penchant for associating with the wrong people, and later on by a debilitating heroin addiction. By the time he died of an overdose in 1970, the list of people that would benefit from his death, from local police, to mobsters, to drug dealers and users, to former lovers, was as long as the Vegas Strip. So, what really happened to Sonny Liston? 

#truecrime #boxing #history #podcast

Jan 27, 2017

On last week's episode, we discussed 1930's radio superstar Father Charles Coughlin, and as part of that chat, we touched on the New Deal. Coughlin initially supported the program, but later reversed course. He was not alone in this. On this week's episode, we go more in-depth on FDR's New Deal with long-time Wall Street Journal editor George Melloan. Melloan has a unique perspective on the New Deal and its effects, as he lived through the Great Depression and the subsequent Deal as a young child. How did FDR's signature program affect rural America? Was it all good? All bad? 

George Melloan's new book is "When the New Deal Came to Town," and is available on Amazon and at various bookstores. Check out our chat on FDR's New Deal, then please share the episode with someone else. Thank you!

Jan 20, 2017

A politician builds a massive audience through a mainstream media device, then leverages his followers to spread a populist message that speaks to plight of many in the country...sound familiar? It's happening now in the U.S., but it is a political approach that is as old as democracy itself. Father Charles Coughlin regularly mixed religion and politics to garner himself a radio audience of around 30 million listeners in a time when the population of the U.S. was 130 million. This massively popular priest used the media to spread his message of anti-communism, while also spewing anti-Semitic rhetoric. Early on, he was a supporter of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and his New Deal, but later turned on both. By the end of the 1930's, Coughlin was off the radio, but he continued to engage on issues he was passionate about up until his death. The mark he left on society is undeniable. 

I speak with author Sheldon Marcus on the influence of Father Coughlin, whether or not he was truly an anti-Semite, and his impression of the man, who he interviewed in-person for his book. Remember to download, enjoy, and share! 

Jan 13, 2017

This year marks 130 years since the passing of Old West legend John "Doc" Holliday. All these years later, he is still an enigma to many. In part II of our series on Doc, we unravel the truth behind Doc's involvement with the infamous shootout at the O.K. Corral (fun fact: the shootout didn't actually take place at the O.K. Corral), his years after Tombstone, and his death. 

Author Gary Roberts, who wrote "Doc Holliday: The Life and Legend," delves once more into Doc's life, revealing new details and dispelling myths. Don't forget to download, enjoy, and share!

*Apologies on the quality of the audio of this episode*

#history #OldWest #gunman

Jan 6, 2017

John "Doc" Holliday was only 36 when he died of tuberculosis in 1887. Sometimes a outlaw, sometimes a lawman, and always a gambler, Doc developed a legendary reputation as a gunman that made you want to have him on your side in a fight. A close friend of fellow Old West legend Wyatt Earp, Holliday migrated from his native Georgia to the West, hoping its climate would help with his tuberculosis diagnosis. What he found was adventure, trouble, love, hatred, life, and death. We also talk about the accuracy of Val Kilmer's famous portrayal of Doc in "Tombstone" in this episode. 

In part one of a two-part series, we discuss Doc Holliday with Old West historian Gary L. Roberts, who wrote the definitive work on Holliday, "Doc Holliday: The Life and Legend." Make sure to download, enjoy, and share!

Dec 30, 2016

Bandleader Louis Prima was the walking definition of entertainment. While other swing and jazz musicians focused on the art of their craft, Prima's mantra was "play it pretty for the people." He was serious about his songwriting, but when it came time to perform, Prima, Keely Smith, Sam Butera, and the rest of their band came alive with a frivolity and joyfulness matched by few, if any. And this is what set them apart. Known for his charisma, Louis Prima had an "active personal life" as well, with five marriages, plus other relationships. Probably best known today for his role as "King Louie" in Disney's original animated classic "The Jungle Book," there has been a resurgence in interest in Prima's music since Brian Setzer and others revived swing music in the late 90's. Today, Louis Prima stands with the other musical greats of his time.

On this week's episode, we discuss the life and times of Louis Prima with author Tom Clavin, who wrote "That Old Black Magic." We cover Prima's early career on into his "second act" as a trailblazing Las Vegas lounge act, as well as his final years. Remember to download, enjoy, and share!

Dec 23, 2016

Former Alabama Governor George Wallace is one of the most polarizing political figures in U.S. history. A true populist that played to his base of supporters, Wallace was loved by many and hated by many at the same time. Originally, he held a moderate view of race relations, but when he lost a campaign for governor of Alabama to a hard-line segregationist, Wallace changed his stance. "Segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever" is one of his most famous quotes. He was shot during a U.S. presidential campaign stop, which physically disabled him. This began the change in his views, and later in life, he altered his views and he became a proponent of civil rights for African-Americans. Some questioned his change, but he held to his new viewpoint to the end of his life, proving that people can change. 

For this episode, I spoke with author Mary Palmer about her book, "George Wallace: An Enigma - The Complex Life of Alabama's Most Divisive and Controversial Governor." We talk about his formative years, his time as governor, his presidential campaigns, the assassination attempt, his change of heart, and his last years. Remember to download, enjoy, and share!

Dec 16, 2016

Dorothy Kilgallen was a true media dynamo whose column was read by millions every day, appeared on a popular TV show each week, and was featured on the radio as well. "Breaking glass ceilings" is being talked about today, but Kilgallen was blazing a trail for women decades ago. Her "Voice of Broadway" column was syndicated in nearly 200 newspapers on a daily basis. She appeared each Sunday on the mega-popular TV show, "What's My Line?" But it was her passion for investigative journalism that really drove her. Kilgallen helped get Dr. Sam Sheppard, whose life was the basis for the film "The Fugitive" starring Harrison Ford, released from prison. When she began to dig into the JFK assassination, she may have simply gotten too close. She died soon after claiming she was ready to break the case wide open with her passing being attributed to an overdose on a mix of drugs and alcohol. But questions remain. Why was she found in a bed she didn't sleep in? Why was there no real investigation performed? And most importantly, what really happened to her? 

We discuss the life and death of Dorothy Kilgallen with author Mark Shaw, who recently released "The Reporter Who Knew Too Much: The Mysterious Death of What's My Line TV Star and Media Icon Dorothy Kilgallen." It's a fascinating discussion on a true pioneer who died too soon. 

Download, enjoy, and share!

Dec 9, 2016

It's part II of our series on the missing persons case of Judge Joseph Crater, and joining us for this week's episode is Marissa Jones, the host of the very popular true crime podcast, "The Vanished." Marissa dove into the theories surrounding Crater's disappearance, which vary wildly. Did he simply walk away, tired of the pressures of his job and his involvement with the underworld? Was he murdered by the mob? Did he die inside a bordello? And what of the post-mortem confession of a NYC cop? 

We discuss all these theories and more, as Marissa puts her investigative skills to the test. Tell us what you think happened to Judge Crater...tweet me @HistoryMile, and tweet Marissa @TheVanishedPod. Don't forget to download, enjoy, and share! 

Dec 2, 2016

Judge Joseph Force Crater was a New York State Supreme Court Justice who went missing on August 6, 1930, and has not been seen since. He had gone out to dinner with a lawyer friend and a showgirl, paid the check, then got into a cab, and was never seen again. What happened to him? 

In the first of a two-part series of episodes, we chat with author Dick Tofel, who wrote, "Vanishing Point: The Disappearance of Judge Crater and the New York He Left Behind." We discuss the circumstances surrounding Crater's disappearance, and touch upon what might have happened to him. There are so many questions still unanswered. Why did he pull out large amounts of cash right before he went missing? Crater had a ticket for a theater show that night...and someone used the ticket, but no one remembers seeing the judge can that be? Why did it take several weeks for the police to get involved? Don't miss this intriguing chat on one of the most notorious missing persons cases of the 20th Century.

Don't forget to download, enjoy, and share! 

Nov 25, 2016

When someone is looking to describe a huge achievement where expectations are greatly surpassed, they can describe it as "Ruthian." The fact that that adjective can be used in American lexicon proves just how massive of a pop culture icon Babe Ruth became, and still is. 

On this week's supersize episode, we discuss the life and times of the Babe with Baseball Hall of Fame Senior Curator Tom Shieber, who spearheaded the creation of a permanent exhibit on Ruth. Utilizing a unique format to "History Personified," we walk through several displays from the Babe Ruth exhibit, using those artifacts to walk through the life of the "Sultan of Swat." From his formative years at St. Mary's in Baltimore, to his time with the Boston Red Sox, to his incredible years with the New York Yankees, to the close of his career, to his life after baseball, and finally to his death, we talk about the incredible life the Babe led. While he died at only 53, Ruth made a huge impact not just on sports, but on American and global culture as well. 

Don't forget to download, enjoy, and share this episode with friends and family!

Nov 18, 2016

"I knew it was you" is one of the most famous lines in cinema history. Uttered by Al Pacino's Michael Corleone to his brother, Fredo, this line from "The Godfather" is also the title of a documentary made by Richard Shepard, who we interview on this week's episode about the actor behind Fredo, John Cazale. Cazale is not an actor remembered by many today, but he had a huge impact in his short career. In fact, he is the only actor to appear exclusively in feature films nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture. Labeled by Pacino as his acting partner, Cazale died at the age of 42 of bone cancer after making only five films, but his impact is still being felt today. Shepard discusses his film, the process it took to get people like Meryl Streep to sit down with him, and why making the film was so important. 

Download, enjoy, and share!

Nov 11, 2016

American historical figure Alexander Hamilton has experienced a recent surge in interest due to the massively popular Broadway musical bearing his name. But what was Hamilton really all about? On this week's episode, we dig deeper into the life of the father of American finance with Museum of Finance President & CEO David Cowen. We discuss Hamilton's early days, his rise to power, so to speak, and his feud with and subsequent death at the hands of Aaron Burr. Why did he have issues with James Madison and Thomas Jefferson? How did he feel about slavery? And where would he stand in today's political climate? We discuss it all. 

Nov 4, 2016

Think that Alec Baldwin's portrayal of Donald Trump and Kate McKinnon's take on Hillary Clinton for "Saturday Night Live" are funny? Disrespectful? Satire is as much a part of the American political process as voting, and has been for centuries. Whether it was political cartoonists using their renderings to send a message, or Chevy Chase portraying Gerald Ford as a bumbling fool, the media has never shied away from poking fun at American politics. Yet, the question must be asked: truly, how influential are shows such as "The Daily Show" and "Last Week Tonight with John Oliver" when it comes to swaying potential voters? 

In this week's episode we talk with Professor Brian Rosenwald from the University of Pennsylvania about the modern history of political satire. Rosenwald is an expert on the history of conservative media, and reaches into his vast knowledge to help us understand the importance and influence of political satire. Download, enjoy, and share!

Oct 28, 2016

Which U.S. President was responsible for the two-party political system and the modern Democratic Party? Very few would answer Martin Van Buren, but those who would, would be correct. The 8th U.S. President only served one term, but he made a lasting impact. Professor Mark Cheathem joins "History Personified" once again to discuss Van Buren, who he terms a "political animal," and also talks about his work in attempting to get this former President's papers transcribed and published. We also chat about the Petticoat Affair, the Panic of 1837, and how the man that founded the two-party political system ended up running as a 3rd party candidate for President later on. It's a fascinating look at a U.S. President you probably don't know much about!

Check out Mark Cheathem's work on the Van Buren papers at We hope that you'll download, enjoy, and share this episode!

Oct 21, 2016

Think Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are polarizing? Andrew Jackson wrote the book on it. Jackson, the 7th U.S. President, arguably stirred up more controversy than any Commander-in-Chief before or since. From marrying an already-married woman, to his pro-slavery stance, to his relations with Native Americans, to killing a man in a duel, "Old Hickory" was as strong-willed as they came. He lived his life unabashedly, but paid a dear price for his choices. In this episode, we chat with Jackson scholar Mark Cheathem about the life and times of this President. We delve into his formative years, his involvement in the Revolutionary War, his stance against abolitionism, and more. 

Check out Cheathem's book entitled, "Andrew Jackson, Southerner," which is available on Amazon. And, as always, if you enjoy the episode, make sure to tell a friend about it! 

Oct 14, 2016

This week's episode features part two of our discussion with Burt Boyar, biographer and longtime close, personal friend of Sammy Davis, Jr. We discuss the crumbling of Sammy's marriage to May Britt, his relationships with fellow Rat Pack members Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin, his friendship with Richard Nixon, and his later money problems. It's an honest look at Sammy's life, for better or worse, and you will come away with a greater understanding of what made the man called "the greatest entertainer who ever lived" tick. 

Burt Boyar co-wrote several books with Sammy, including "Sammy: The Autobiography of Sammy Davis, Jr.," which is available on Amazon. Check out his works there. And, as always, if you enjoy this episode, make sure to share it with others!

Oct 7, 2016

Considered by many to be the greatest entertainer of all time, Sammy Davis, Jr. unquestionably made an indelible mark on history. Dancing, singing, acting, comedy, impressions...simply put, Sammy could do it all. In part one of this two-part series, we talk with Burt Boyar, one of Sammy's closest friends, about the life and times of this icon. Whether he was with his Rat Pack buddies or going solo, Sammy electrified audiences across the globe. But there were many private struggles behind the scenes that helped shape Sammy, for better or worse. 

In this episode, we talk about Sammy's formative years, his time in the military, which included a horrific incident where he was literally painted by some of his fellow soldiers, the car accident that cost Sammy his eye, and some of his early relationships. 

Burt co-wrote several books with Sammy, including "Sammy: The Autobiography of Sammy Davis, Jr.," which is available on Amazon. Check out his works there. And, as always, if you enjoy this episode, make sure to share it with others!

Sep 30, 2016

Did you know the U.S. Marshal Service is the oldest federal law enforcement agency in the United States? Founded in 1789, the Marshals have served in a variety of roles since their inception, and have been present for some of the most important historical events in American history. They protected civil rights leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr. and Medgar Evers, were part of the response to the Native American occupation of Alcatraz, and were involved in the Ruby Ridge incident. 

U.S. Marshal Service Historian David S. Turk joins "History Personified" to discuss his new book, "Forging the Star: The Official Modern History of the United States Marshal Service." We talk about the Marshals' responsibilities, their involvement in various historical events, and what they're up to now. Download, enjoy, and share!

Sep 23, 2016

Sadly, we are seeing mass shootings happen more and more in today's day and age. Some believe stricter gun control will stop it, while others believe better mental health services will deter these events. Regardless, it is an issue that Americans have been dealing with a lot longer than the last couple of decades.

In September, 1949, World War II veteran Howard Unruh perpetrated what was later called his "Walk of Death," shooting 16 victims in his New Jersey neighborhood. 13 died, including three children under the age of 10. Some were chosen specifically, and some were random. After the shootings, Unruh engaged in a standoff with police before giving himself up. He was judged to be criminally insane, though there was no trial, and was committed for the rest of his life, dying in 2009 at the age of 88. What precipitated the attacks? Why did Unruh do these terrible things?

We discuss this and more with writer Patrick Sauer, who wrote an article on Unruh for the Smithsonian's website. Download, learn, enjoy, and share!

Sep 16, 2016

The JonBenét Ramsey murder, the Unabomber, the D.C. snipers...these are all cases FBI legend Jim Fitzgerald worked on during his long and storied law enforcement career. Jim joins "History Personified" to discuss these cases, his formative years with the FBI, and a new CBS docu-series that debuts this Sunday, entitled "The Case of: JonBenét Ramsey." Fitzgerald, who was part of the FBI's Behavioral Analysis Unit, was instrumental in bringing the Unabomber to justice, leveraging forensic linguistics in the process. He also helped guide the sniper case, suggesting the shooters weren't white, and that there was more than one. Listen in as Fitzgerald talks about his time on both's a fascinating look at the life of a truly legendary FBI lawman. 

Recommendation of the week: "The Case of: JonBenét Ramsey" debuts on CBS on Sunday, Sept. 18th at 8:30-10:30 PM, ET/8:00-10:00 PM, PT, and concludes on Monday, Sept. 19th at 9:00-11:00 PM, ET/PT. Check it out!

Sep 9, 2016

This week's episode features a chat with University of Louisville professor Tyler Fleming about international bestselling book "The Power of One," a historical novel. The book, written by Bryce Courtenay, is a semi-autobiographical look at life in South Africa in the mid-20th Century, a time of racial divide and persecution. The main character, a young white Englishman who calls himself Peekay, must navigate through bigotry and bullying while learning about the world around him. Boxing, music, religion, political upheaval...the book has it all. 

A new segment debuts this week, our "Recommendation of the Week." Each week, we will spotlight a book, documentary, podcast, or other piece of content. For this week, our recommendation is to check out "The Power of One," which is available on Amazon. 

Sep 2, 2016

Belle La Follette was often overshadowed by her more well-known husband, U.S. Senator Robert La Follette, but she made a huge impact on American society in her own right. During the early 20th Century, she stood against racism and war at a time where taking such a stance was neither popular nor widely shared. Belle was also a big influence in the women's suffrage movement.

For this episode, I chat with Santa Clara University Professor Nancy Unger, who has authored a book titled, "Belle La Follette, Progressive Era Reformer." We discuss Belle's life and times, including why she turned down an opportunity to become the first female U.S. Senator. Enjoy!

Special thanks this week to Gabriel Simão for creating the new bumper music used this week...check out his Facebook page:

Aug 26, 2016

American evangelist Billy Sunday took a very unconventional route to the ministry, leaving behind a successful baseball career for the cloth, so the speak. A conservative Christian who eschewed drinking and carousing, Sunday was an influential preacher who helped bring about Prohibition. Yet, he wasn't always on the straight and narrow, as he his time as a ballplayer was marked with the excesses of the day. Sunday left all that behind, including a high-paying baseball contract, to enter the ministry. His career as a preacher was marked with incredible highs before he seemingly faded into obscurity, losing much of his family in the process. 

Neil Young, scholar, author, and co-host of history podcast "Past Present," joins us to take us through Sunday's life, discussing his impact on American culture in the early 20th Century. Don't miss out on this entertaining story, and make sure you check out Young's podcast as well!

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