This date in history: Birth of a college and a blues legend - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

This date in history: Birth of a college and a blues legend

The nation’s oldest institution of higher learning held its first commencement exercise on this date in 1642. Harvard University had been around six years by then, founded in 1636 as “the college at New Towne.”

It took its name from John Harvard, a deceased clergyman and alumnus of the University of Cambridge in England. He left the school 779 British pounds and his library of some 400 books. Harvard University is now one of the most prestigious schools in the world.

A significant event also took place in St. Louis on Sept. 23, 1806. That’s when Meriwether Lewis and William Clark made a successful return from their two-and-half-year exploration of the U.S. Northwest.

The “Corps of Discovery”, as it was called, was commissioned by President Thomas Jefferson, even as negotiations continued with France over the Louisiana Purchase. The expedition brought back valuable information about the largely unexplored region.

Famous people born on this date include Mickey Rooney in 1920, Julio Iglesias in 1943 and Bruce Springsteen in 1949.

It’s also the anniversary of Ray Charles’ birth in Albany, Georgia. The blind singer would have been 85 years old today, and no doubt still an American treasure.

Charles is known for any number of outstanding performances, but three come immediately to mind.

One is the first time he played the song, What I’d Say. It was improvised on the spot to fill remaining time in a 1958 nightclub show.

The second is his performance on the 1985 hit, We Are the World. Watching Ray record his part for the song is priceless. It makes one realize that an artist doesn’t need sight to contribute to a masterpiece.

Last, but not least, is his appearance before the Georgia legislature in 1979. Ray was there because his rendition of Georgia on My Mind was proclaimed the state song of Georgia. Hearing his performance should make every Georgian proud to know that Ray Charles was one of us.       

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