Dear Ace: It’s well known that Presidents John Adams and Thomas Jefferson died within an hour of each other on the Fourth of July in 1826. What other famous Americans expired on the holiday?—Patrician-Mortician-in-Charlottesville
Ace wonders if every classic American patriot—statesman, war hero, spaghetti Western character actor, etc.—secretly hopes his life’s trajectory will end on Independence Day. Is it possible, in the same way some expectant mothers try to time their deliveries for the beginning of the New Year, that the nearly simultaneous passing of our second and third presidents was the result of a tacit rivalry between them?
In any case, our fifth President, James Monroe, was quick to repeat the feat, taking his leave on July 4, 1831. Likewise, Paul Joseph Revere, grandson of the Revolutionary War legend and a Union Colonel during the Civil War, was mortally wounded during the Battle of Gettysburg, and after lingering for two days in a field hospital, died on July 4, 1863. Revere received posthumous brevetting to Brigadier General. Fast forward to 2002, with the Independence Day passing of Benjamin O. Davis, Jr., commander of the World War II Tuskegee Airmen and the first African-American general in the US Air Force. Finally, Jesse Helms, the controversial five-term Republican Senator from North Carolina, secured his place in the “croaked on the Fourth of July” cabinet with his death in 2008.
July 4 also marks the conclusion of three American actresses’ lives: Judy Tyler, who starred opposite Elvis Presley in Jailhouse Rock, and was killed in an automobile accident in Wyoming in 1957, at age 24; Anne Shirley, famous for her character of the same name in the 1934 film Anne of Green Gables, in 1993; and Eva Gabor, the Hungarian-born actress and American socialite, in 1995. Winnifred Quick, English emigrant to the United States and one of the longest survivors of the sinking of the Titanic, passed on Independence Day in 2002, as did velvet-voiced soul singer-songwriter and record producer Barry White in 2003.
But perhaps the supreme example of American heroism can be found in the July 4 death of professional wrestler “Adorable” Adrian Adonis, tag team partner of Jesse Venture in the late ’70s. Adonis was slain, along with several other wrestlers, in a minivan accident in Newfoundland, when the driver allegedly swerved to avoid hitting a moose and, blinded by the setting sun, inadvertently drove into a lake.
You can ask Ace yourself. Intrepid investigative reporter Ace Atkins has been chasing readers’ leads for 21 years. If you have a question for Ace, e-mail it to firstname.lastname@example.org.