Hal Gordon: Titanic: The Squalid SequelRoundup: Talking About History
Hal Gordon, who wrote speeches for the Reagan White House and Gen. Colin Powell, is currently a freelance speechwriter in Houston. Web site: www.ringingwords.com.
On the night of April 14-15, 1912, the R.M.S. Titanic struck an iceberg and sank with a loss of over 1500 lives. It was the greatest peacetime disaster in maritime history....
No sooner had the British liner Carpathia docked in New York with the Titanic’s survivors when William Alden Smith, an eager, self-promoting U.S. senator from Michigan, bounded up the gangplank to inform J. Bruce Ismay, the chairman of the White Star Line who was among those rescued, that Smith was chairing a special inquiry into the disaster, and that Ismay and the crew would be detained for the proceedings.
A maverick Republican with a marked distaste for big business, Smith had previously clashed with plutocrat J.P. Morgan. Smith was aware that although the Titanic had sailed under British registry and with a British crew, the White Star Line itself was owned by Morgan’s financial empire. So, in addition to garnering the widespread publicity that would attend the hearings, Smith saw a golden opportunity to embarrass Morgan....
Despite his multiple gaffes, Smith managed to compile over a thousand pages of valuable eyewitness testimony. He also gave the public a villain in the person of White Star chairman J. Bruce Ismay....
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