Novelist and screenwriter Elmore Leonard was born in New Orleans, Louisiana in 1925. In 1949, he went to work as an advertising copywriter, a job he hated. He would write fiction in the mornings before work, or, as he said: "Sometimes I would write a little fiction at work, too. I would write in my desk drawer and close the drawer if somebody came in." In 1951, he published his first short story — a Western, and in 1953, his first novel, The Bounty Hunters. Over the next 10 years, he published more than 30 short stories and five novels, including Escape from Five Shadows (1956) and Hombre (1961). His first crime novel, The Big Bounce,came out in 1969 after being rejected by 84 publishers. Since then, almost all of his books — including Fifty-Two Pickup(1974), Get Shorty (1990), Out of Sight (1996), and recently, Djibouti (2010) — have been critically acclaimed best-sellers.
Two other birthdays and an anniversary (today's entries all abbreviated from Garrison Keillor's Writer's Almanac):
It's also the birthday of Eleanor Roosevelt, born in New York City in 1884, who said, "A woman is like a tea bag. You never know how strong she is until she gets into hot water." She began a secret courtship with her cousin FDR. During World War I, she went off to Europe and visited wounded and shell-shocked soldiers in hospitals there. Later, during her husband's presidency, she campaigned hard on civil rights issues — not universally popular in the 1930s and 1940s. After FDR died in 1945, she moved from the White House to Hyde Park, New York, and taught International Relations at Brandeis University. As anti-communist witch-hunting began to sweep the U.S., she stuck up for freedom of association. In 1947, a couple years before the McCarthy Era had reached full swing, she announced, "The Un-American Activities Committee seems to me to be better for a police state than for the USA." She once said, "We have to face the fact that either all of us are going to die together or we are going to learn to live together and if we are to live together we have to talk." And, "You wouldn't worry so much about what others think of you if you realized how seldom they do."
It's the birthday of physicist-psychologist Lewis Fry Richardson, born in Northumberland, England (1881), who was the first to apply mathematical techniques to predict the weather accurately. During WWI, Richardson served as a driver for the Friends' Ambulance Unit in France. During the intervals between transporting wounded soldiers from the front, he manually computed the changes in pressure and wind at two points. From this information, he wrote his 1922 book, Weather Prediction by Numerical Process. The problem with his theories was that it took him about three months to predict the weather for the next 24 hours. His system did not become practical until the advent of electronic computers after WW II.
This date in 1962 Pope John XXIII convened the first session of the Second Vatican Council, aka Vatican II, with the goal of bringing the church up to date with the modern world. More than 3,000 delegates attended, including many of the Catholic bishops from around the world, theologians, and other church officials. As a result of Vatican II, Catholics were allowed to pray with Protestants and attend weddings and funerals in Protestant churches; priests were encouraged to perform mass facing the congregation, rather than facing the altar; and priests were allowed to perform mass in languages other than Latin, so that parishioners could finally understand what was being said throughout the service.