These Famous People had Truly Bad Sides to their Personalities

These Famous People had Truly Bad Sides to their Personalities

Khalid Elhassan - September 15, 2021

People are not plaster saints or cartoon characters. As a result, while there are good people out there, and plenty of awful ones too, seldom do we encounter people who are either purely good or purely awful. Take one of America’s favorite cheeses, which is named after a person who is horrible in many ways. Or the man who revolutionized libraries, and was also an awful predator who today would be ostracized or even locked up. Following are thirty things about those and other lesser-known awful sides of famous people and events from history.

These Famous People had Truly Bad Sides to their Personalities
Dry Jack cheese. Wikimedia

30. A Famous Cheese Named After an Awful Landlord

The mildly flavored and slightly sweet Monterey Jack cheese is considered to be an “American original” because of its origins not in the Old World, but in the United States. Highly popular, Monterey Jack is a flexible platform that lends itself to a rich – and delicious – variety of cheeses. When not eaten by itself, it is often flavored with chili peppers and herbs to make Pepper Jack, marbled with cheddar to produce Cheddar Jack, or with Colby for Colby Jack.

If not mixed but simply aged for a longer period, it produces a harder cheese named Dry Jack. The first part of Monterey Jack’s name is from Monterey, California, where its earliest versions were first made in the eighteenth century by Franciscan friars. The second part is named after David Jacks (1822 – 1909). A shady businessman and awful landlord, he was the first to widely market and popularize Monterey cheese, and added his name to the brand to make it Monterey Jack.

These Famous People had Truly Bad Sides to their Personalities
Prospectors in search of their fortunes during the California Gold Rush. Santa Maria Sun

29. From the Small Time to the Big Leagues

David Jack, who later added an S to his last name to make it Jacks, was born in Scotland in 1822. He emigrated to America when he was twenty years old or so, and worked for seven years as a US Army contractor in Virginia and New York. When news of the California Gold Rush arrived, he sold everything he had, which netted him $1400, and invested it in revolvers for resale in California. He reached San Francisco in 1849, flipped his firearms for $4000 in just two days, then headed to the gold mines, but failed to hit a mother lode.

So Jacks returned to San Francisco, got a job in the Custom House, and put his $4,000 to work by lending some of it out at interest. The following year he moved to Monterey, then a small town of 1,000 people, where for years he dabbled in a few failed enterprises until 1859 when his fortunes dramatically improved. That year, as seen below, he and a lawyer named Delos Rodeyn Ashley cooked up a shady scheme to swindle Monterey out of 30,000 acres – an awful move that instantly transformed David Jacks into a land baron.

These Famous People had Truly Bad Sides to their Personalities
David Jacks, the awful land baron after whom Monterey Jack cheese is named. Wikimedia

28. A Quick Swindle Made Jacks Rich in No Time

Monterey hired attorney Delos Rodeyn Ashley to help legalize its claim to 30,000 acres on the Monterey Peninsula that included the town itself, plus its surroundings. He did and billed the town $991.50 for his legal services. Monterey’s treasury was empty, however, so Ashley suggested that it auction off the land to pay him, and keep the rest of the proceeds. Unbeknownst to the good people of Monterey, they were about to fall victim to an awful swindle. Ashley had conspired with David Jacks to rig the auction.

The auction was advertised in a newspaper as legally required, but at short notice – and not in Monterey, but in Santa Cruz, nearly 50 miles and a two or three-day journey away. As a result, the only two bidders present at the auction on February 9th, 1859, were David Jacks and Delos Ashley. Monterey’s lawyer then proceeded to purchase the entire tract for $1002.50. After the lawyer deducted his legal fee, Monterey was presumably left $11 for its entire 30,000 acres – unless even that went to Ashley as interest for the late payment of his bill.

These Famous People had Truly Bad Sides to their Personalities
Some of Monterey Jacks’ ranches in the Monterey area. Mayo Hayes O’Donnell Library

27. The Awful Owner of Monterey

Understandably, the town of Monterey was less than happy with the swindle and sought to undo the shady auction. They appealed all the way up to the United States Supreme Court, but to no avail. A few years after the con, Delos Ashley sold the entire tract to his co-conspirator. David Jacks thus became one of California’s biggest proprietors, owner of 30,000 scenic and magnificent acres that surrounded Monterey, as well as the town itself.

He proved to be an awful landlord. He charged high rents, foreclosed often, and engaged in many shady practices to acquire even more land. Without bothering to notify proprietors, he paid back taxes on properties, then socked the owners with high interest to get their land back. He also foreclosed on defaulted mortgages, and to minimize the chance of having the foreclosures contested, he pinned the notices in hard-to-spot parts of the properties. He also posted them in English if the owners were Mexican, and in Spanish if they were English speakers.

These Famous People had Truly Bad Sides to their Personalities
Robert Louis Stevenson visited California and wrote about how awful the locals thought David Jacks was. The Scotland Herald

26. Monterey’s Most Hated Man

Thanks to his shady practices, David Jacks eventually came to own about 100,000 acres in Monterey County and its surroundings. Understandably, the locals hated his guts. They went so far as to form a league, which wrote him in 1872: “You have been the cause of unnecessary annoyance and expense to the settlers now if you don’t make that account of damages to each and every one of us within ten days, you son of a bitch, we will suspend your animation between daylight and hell“.

Robert Louis Stevenson, the author of Treasure Island, visited the area and wrote: “the town lands of Monterey are all in the hands of a single man. How they came there is an obscure, vexatious question, and rightly, or wrongly, the man is hated with a great hatred. His life has been repeatedly in danger. Not very long ago, I was told the stage was stopped three evenings in succession by disguised horsemen thirsting for his blood“. Calls were made to lynch and hang Jacks, and he had to take bodyguards with him wherever he went in the region.

These Famous People had Truly Bad Sides to their Personalities
Spanish Franciscan missionaries in California. Wikimedia

25. A Great Cheese Named After an Awful Land Baron

Among David Jacks’ many interests was a dairy on the Salinas River. There, he produced a cheese whose origins can be traced back to Franciscan friars who had established missions in California when it was still part of the Spanish Empire. Faced with an abundance of more fresh milk than they could consume, the friars converted it into a soft and creamy light delicacy that came to be known as Queso blanco pais (white peasant cheese), or simply Queso blanco (white cheese). It became a staple diet of California’s Spanish-speaking settlers.

Jacks became a partner in 14 of Northern California’s biggest dairies. Like the Franciscans, he converted surplus milk into Queso blanco, which he marketed as “Jacks Cheese”. It proved to be a great crossover product, the Anglos liked it, and before long, the white cheese was popular throughout the West Coast. People asked for it by name, and eventually “Monterey Jack” displaced Queso blanco as the white creamy cheese’s name. Nowadays, daily production of Monterey Jack is in the tens of thousands of pounds, and it accounts for ten percent of all of California’s cheese production.

These Famous People had Truly Bad Sides to their Personalities
Melvil Dewey. Encyclopedia Britannica

24. Dewey of Libraries’ Dewey Decimal System Was an Awful Creep

The #MeToo era brought attention to allegations of harassment and misconduct by many famous names. Melvil Dewey, chief librarian at Columbia University, a founding member of the American Library Association, and the man after whom the Dewey Decimal Classification System used in libraries is named, does not appear in modern headlines. However, if he was alive today rather than nearly a century dead, he would have been front and center as one of the more awful perpetrators of predatory behavior and harassment.

Dewey, long revered as the “father of the modern library”, made tons of inappropriate advances towards women. Their numbers included many fellow librarians, and even his own daughter-in-law, who once fled his house to escape his overtures. Said sexual harassment, coupled with rabid racism and vicious anti-Semitism, was excessive even by the sexist, racist, and anti-Semitic standards of his era. As seen below, that kind of awful personal behavior eventually got him kicked out of the very library association that he had helped found.

These Famous People had Truly Bad Sides to their Personalities
The Dewey Decimal System. Pinterest

23. An Innovative Educator

Melville Louis Kossuth Dewey (1851 – 1931) was born and raised in New York. As a young man, he advocated for the reform and simplification of the English language, which entailed getting rid of redundant letters. By way of personal example, he changed his first name’s spelling from the Melville to Melvil, and his last name from Dewey to Dui. Melvil stuck, but Dui did not. He got a bachelor’s degree from Amherst in 1874, and was then immediately hired to manage its library and reclassify its collections. He built upon a decimal structure first outlined by Sir Francis Bacon centuries earlier, and copyrighted the Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC), now commonly known as the Dewey Decimal System, in 1876.

These Famous People had Truly Bad Sides to their Personalities
Interior of the New York State Library in the late nineteenth century, when it was run by Melvil Dewey. Library of Congress

That year, while a graduate university student, he also founded the Library Bureau, a business to provide equipment and supplies to libraries. Its chief products were high-quality index cards that established the standard for library catalog cards and filing cabinets. In 1876, he also helped found the American Library Association (ALA), the world’s oldest and largest library association, with over 57,000 members today. In 1883, he became Columbia University’s chief librarian, and in 1888, he was made director of New York’s State Library. In 1895, he founded the Lake Placid Club, a recreation spot for educators to visit in pursuit of health and inspiration, at a low cost. Unfortunately, the man’s many positive contributions were marred by an awful side.

These Famous People had Truly Bad Sides to their Personalities
Melvil Dewey. Adirondack Daily Enterprise

22. A Great Librarian’s Awful Side

Melvil Dewey was grabby, and one of his biographies referred to his “old nemesis – a persistent inability to control himself around women“. For decades, from at least the 1880s and until he was almost eighty years old and with one foot in the grave, Dewey persisted in a pattern of “unwelcome hugging, unwelcome touching, certainly unwelcome kissing” with female subordinates. When he opened a librarian course he taught at Columbia to women, Dewey required a photograph from each female applicant because, as he charmingly put it, “you can’t polish a pumpkin“. In 1905, during a ten-day trip to Alaska sponsored by the American Library Association, he made unwelcome advances on at least four prominent librarians, who complained to officials. In the ensuing furor, he was forced to resign from the ALA.

These Famous People had Truly Bad Sides to their Personalities
A portion of the Lake Placid Club. Imgur

In 1929, when he was 78-years-old, Dewey had to shell out thousands of dollars – a significant chunk of change back then – to settle a lawsuit brought by a woman whom he had groped and kissed in public the previous summer. In addition to the awful sexism, Dewey was also an awful racist and awful anti-Semite. Per a policy he wrote, the Lake Placid Club banned black people and Jews. He even bought land adjacent to the club to make sure that no Jews bought it. That triggered a petition to the New York State Board of Regents to remove him as state librarian. The Board declined to remove him, but it did issue a public rebuke, and he resigned in 1905 as a result.

These Famous People had Truly Bad Sides to their Personalities
Charles Laughton as Captain Bligh in ‘Mutiny on the Bounty’. Pinterest

21. Just How Awful Was Captain Bligh?

William Bligh (1754 – 1817) is depicted in popular culture as the epitome of a tyrannical boss and cruel commanding officer. As portrayed in cinematic and fictional accounts of the mutiny on the Bounty, Bligh was an awful, overbearing, and despotic captain. He reportedly overworked, mistreated, and insulted his men, and was a sadist who gratuitously punished any who triggered his insecurities by flogging them to within an inch of their lives. Such cruel conduct, the commonly accepted narrative goes, eventually drove his men to mutiny.

In reality, when viewed within the context and norms of his era, Bligh was a pretty decent ship commander. He was not exactly a teddy bear, and he frequently subjected his men to tongue lashings. However, most captains did the same back in those days. When it came to actual physical lashings, though, Bligh’s men were flogged less frequently than were their peers sailing under other captains. In other words, Bligh preferred to chastise his crew verbally, instead of physically.

These Famous People had Truly Bad Sides to their Personalities
William Bligh. Project Gutenberg

20. Not Only Was Bligh Not a Cruel Captain, He Was Actually a Conscientious One

Another way in which William Bligh was better than most ship captains of his day is that, unlike many of his peers, he did not neglect his crews’ wellbeing. Bligh was not full of the warm and fuzzies, but he nonetheless felt a keen sense of duty and responsibility towards those under his command, and invested significant time and effort to keep his ship’s company healthy. For example, he organized the shifts aboard his ship to ensure that the men got plenty of rest, and oversaw a daily exercise regimen to keep them fit.

Bligh also saw to it that his crew got as highly nutritious a diet as was possible under the circumstances. That his men eventually mutinied had little to with unbearable conditions or an impossibly awful captain. The mutiny aboard HMS Bounty came about because, after an extremely long journey, the men had spent several weeks on leave in the tropical island paradise of Tahiti. There, they had relaxed, let down their hair, and partied it up heartily with local women. The desire to keep the party going, rather than excessive oppression by an exceptionally mean captain, is what caused the mutiny.

These Famous People had Truly Bad Sides to their Personalities
Captain Bligh and loyal sailors cast adrift after the Mutiny on the Bounty. The Telegraph

19. Captain Bligh Turned Out to be an Inspirational Hero After the Mutiny Aboard the Bounty

When the Bounty finally weighed anchor and raised sails for the long journey back home, the jarring contrast between the dreary ship life and the paradise they had left behind was too much for many of the ship’s crew. So they decided to mutiny. On April 28th, 1789, disaffected sailors led by acting-Lieutenant Fletcher Christian seized the ship, ditched Bligh and 18 other sailors loyal to him on a 23-foot boat, gave them provisions for five days, cast them adrift, and returned to Tahiti.

These Famous People had Truly Bad Sides to their Personalities
Voyage of the Bounty before the mutiny in red, after the mutiny in yellow, and of William Bligh and the loyal sailors in a boat in green. Wikimedia

The deposed captain’s conduct after the mutiny was actually inspirational. Bligh and the men aboard his boat had been left to die in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, thousands of miles from civilization. Instead, he demonstrated brilliant leadership under adversity. Bligh kept his men alive and navigated the dinky boat nearly 4000 until they reached civilization, all the while he battled thirst, hunger, illness, and the occasional hostile natives. It was one of the most extraordinary feats of seamanship in history.

These Famous People had Truly Bad Sides to their Personalities
Stalin overseeing the signing of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. Euromaidan

18. Just How Awful Was the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact?

On August 23rd, 1939, one week before the invasion of Poland that kicked off World War II, Nazi Germany and the Communist Soviet Union stunned the world by signing a German-Soviet Nonaggression Treaty, better known as the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. Ever since a widely accepted narrative has developed to the effect that the pact was an awful deal that proved to be disastrous for the USSR. When examined dispassionately, however, in the context of the time and from the perspective of the signatories, especially the Soviets, it made sense.

The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact was bad for the Western Allies, and was certainly awful for Poland, but it was a good deal for the USSR. Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin subsequently proved disastrously wrong in his faith that Hitler would honor the agreement, and in his stubborn refusal to heed warnings of an impending German attack in 1941. However, the fault in that lay with Stalin, not with the Pact. The Pact itself actually served the interests of the USSR, and while the Soviets did not make the best use of it, they were nonetheless better off for having signed it.

These Famous People had Truly Bad Sides to their Personalities
The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact’s division of territory. Wikimedia

17. From a Soviet Perspective in 1939, the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact Made Good Sense

From the perspective of the Western Powers at the start of WWII, Britain and France, and from a Polish perspective, the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact was calamitous. But from the perspective of the Soviet Union, the 1939 German-Soviet Nonaggression Treaty made good sense. The Western Powers had demonstrated their unreliability during the Munich Crisis in 1938. They exhibited a greater distaste for dealing with Stalin than with Hitler. At the time, the Soviets had made solid offers to defend Czechoslovakia, which Hitler threatened to invade, but they were rebuffed.

Instead, the Poles refused the Red Army permission to march through Poland to reach Czechoslovakia, while Britain and France negotiated halfheartedly and wrapped up the affair with an awful diplomatic debacle in which they appeased Hitler by gifting him Czechoslovakia (Now the modern-day Czech Republic). After Munich, the USSR had something to offer both sides. The Germans negotiated seriously and made attractive offers, while Britain and France did not. And the Poles in their dealings with the Soviet Union – the only country whose forces could actually physically come to their defense against the Germans – were astonishingly shortsighted.

These Famous People had Truly Bad Sides to their Personalities
Contemporary cartoon depicting the honeymoon of Hitler and Stalin after the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. Wikimedia

16. As Things Turned Out, the Soviets Were Better Off For Having Signed the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact

The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact bought the Soviets nearly two years in which to prepare for war. Poor as the Soviet military’s performance was in 1941, it was even less prepared for war in 1939. Moreover, the Pact, which gave the USSR nearly half of Poland, pushed the Soviet borders hundreds of miles westwards, which gave the USSR that much additional buffer against the Nazis. Space and distance proved decisive to Soviet survival in 1941: the Germans came within 10 miles of the Kremlin before they were turned back. Without the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, the Germans would have launched their invasion from a start line hundreds of miles further to the east.

These Famous People had Truly Bad Sides to their Personalities
German tanks plunge into the Soviet Union in 1941 at the start of Operation Barbarossa. Encyclopedia Britannica

The same effort that ran out of steam within sight of the Kremlin would likely have pushed far beyond had it started hundreds of miles closer to Moscow. As the Soviets saw it, they owed the Western Powers and Poland nothing. Indeed, they had outstanding border claims against Poland. The Germans offered to satisfy those claims, while the British and French offered little. The Soviets were the ones expected to do the bulk of the fighting and dying in a war against Germany. So it struck them as chutzpah for Germany’s foes to offer so little in exchange for the high price the USSR would pay if it sided with them, rather than develop a relationship of benevolent neutrality with Germany.

These Famous People had Truly Bad Sides to their Personalities
The barons forcing King John of England to sign the Magna Carta. 50-50 Parliament

15. Was King John of England as Awful as He is Depicted in the Robin Hood Legend?

King John of England (1166 – 1216) is best known as the bad guy from the Robin Hood legend. He is depicted as a cowardly usurper and awful sibling who constantly schemed to seize the throne, while his heroic brother, King Richard I the Lionheart, was away on God’s work in the Crusades. While the reality was more complicated, and Richard was actually a bad king who detested England and the English, John was no saint. Among other things, he personally murdered his teenage nephew, Arthur of Brittany, in a drunken rage.

Nonetheless, John could also be quite a likeable fellow when he wanted to be. The problem was that he often did not bother to even try. So his reign ended up a disastrous one for England. He lost his French holdings, got the Pope to excommunicate him and place England under interdiction, and triggered a baronial rebellion that ended with the Magna Carta. However, all of that came about not because John was a cartoonishly evil king, but because he was an epically incompetent one.

These Famous People had Truly Bad Sides to their Personalities
Tomb effigy of King John of England. History Today

14. King John Was Not So Much Evil as He Was Incompetent

On his way back home from the Crusades, Richard the Lionheart was captured and imprisoned by a powerful aristocrat whom he had offended in the Holy Lands. A huge ransom was demanded for Richard’s release, and his brother John tried to take advantage of the situation to usurp the English throne. He bungled it, and ended up banished and had his property confiscated before a freed Richard finally forgave him. When he finally became king following his brother’s death without issue, John entered into a disastrous marriage that cost him much of his holdings in France. He then got into a ruinous war with the French king that cost him the rest.

At home, John got into an argument with an archbishop, that ended up with the Pope excommunicating John and all of England. Even when he tried to do the right thing and shifted some of the burden of taxation from the peasants to the wealthy nobles, it backfired and led to a baronial rebellion that forced him to sign the Magna Carta. Fittingly, his final days were just as pathetic: while suffering a bout of dysentery that would ultimately do him in, he decided to take a shortcut through some marshy ground by a tidal estuary. The tide came, and John barely escaped drowning but ended up losing his baggage train and the Crown Jewels of England.

These Famous People had Truly Bad Sides to their Personalities
The Empire of Japan’s strength in what was left of her territories on August 15th, 1945, the day she threw in the towel. US Army Center of Military History

13. Was it Actually Unnecessary to Atomically Bomb Japan in WWII?

One of the more persistent myths of the Second World War has it that the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 was unnecessary because Japan was already reeling and on the verge of surrender. The Allies simply had to blockade Japan, and the Japanese government would have come to its senses sooner rather than later, and thrown in the towel. A variety of factors make that theory nonsensical. The first is that the war when the atomic bombs were dropped was not limited to the Japanese home islands and the choice of whether to invade or simply blockade them.

Japan in August 1945, still occupied vast territories in Asia and the Pacific and misgoverned hundreds of millions of conquered subjects. They endured daily horrors from their Japanese overlords, who subjected them to casual brutality, torture, rape, murder, and massacres. On average, roughly 250,000 conquered civilians – a number greater than the estimated 200,000 fatalities caused by both the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombs – died every month as a result of awful Japanese barbarities. Those civilians would have continued to suffer and die each day, week, and month, that the war dragged on while the Allies waited for the Japanese authorities to make up their minds about whether and when to surrender.

These Famous People had Truly Bad Sides to their Personalities
Japanese soldiers laying down their weapons at war’s end. Pinterest

12. Every Day That WWII Dragged On Was Another Day in Which Thousands Were Killed and Millions Suffered

In the summer of 1945, Japan also had millions of soldiers stationed in her overseas empire in Asia and the Pacific, who were pitted against millions of Allied opponents. As a result, thousands of casualties were inflicted and suffered by both sides each day. Every single day that passed while the Japanese home islands were blockaded in the hope that doing so would bring Japan’s leaders to their senses, was another day in which thousands of Allied and Japanese soldiers were killed and wounded.

In addition, the Japanese held hundreds of thousands of Allied POWs in the summer of 1945. Japan, which had signed but not ratified the 1929 Geneva Convention on Prisoners of War, did not treat POWs in accordance with international agreements. Instead, POWs were subjected to barbaric treatment every single day, and were routinely beaten, starved, denied medical care and treatment, or casually murdered. Casualties from continued fighting and from Japan’s atrocious treatment of POWs would have continued to mount every single day that the war continued, while the Allies waited for Japan’s surrender.

These Famous People had Truly Bad Sides to their Personalities
Mushroom cloud over Hiroshima. Atomic Archive

11. The Empire of Japan’s Awful Leaders

The main reason however that debunks the take that the atomic bombing of Japan was an awful mistake or atrocity is that the alternative would have been worse. Not just for the Allies, whether soldiers engaged in combat with Japanese, civilians living under brutal Japanese occupation, or POWs in brutal Japanese captivity, but for the Japanese themselves. If Japan had not been shocked into immediate surrender with atomic bombs, the Allies would have had to conduct a massive invasion of the Japanese home islands.

It was an invasion that Japan‘s leaders were determined to resist via national suicide. Said leaders of the Empire of Japan were a morally bankrupt and cowardly lot. An awful bunch who refused to confront and accept the fact that they had made an awful mistake when they took their country into an unwinnable war, which they then lost. Ethical leaders would have shouldered the responsibility for the mess they got their country. Japan’s leaders tried to escape their burden via histrionics and determined to immolate themselves and take their country with them.

These Famous People had Truly Bad Sides to their Personalities
A Japanese soldier trains women to defend the homeland
with bamboo spears in 1945. Air Force Magazine

10. An Awful But Rational Calculation of the Greater vs Lesser Evil

Japan’s leaders in the summer of 1945 refused to accept responsibility for the consequences of their choice to wage an unwinnable war. Instead, they resorted to histrionics and sought to save face via the destruction of their country and its people. They trained women to fight heavily armed invaders with bamboo spears and trained little boys and girls to fight soldiers with pointy sticks. Rather than sacrifice themselves in order to spare their country, Japan’s leaders sought to sacrifice their country in order to spare their egos from the humiliation of surrender.

These Famous People had Truly Bad Sides to their Personalities
Japanese schoolgirls training to fight invaders with sticks. Quora

Such dishonorable notions of honor meant that the estimated cost of an invasion was upwards of a million Allied casualties, and tens of millions of Japanese, the overwhelming majority of them civilians. Compared to that, the 200,000 casualties of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombings, awful as they were, were an acceptable price in the eyes of the US government. For many, there was nothing exceptional about the innocent victims of the atomic bombings that would have justified sparing them at the cost of the millions of other lives that would have been lost elsewhere had the war continued.

These Famous People had Truly Bad Sides to their Personalities
Einstein’s letter to FDR. Wikimedia

9. Was Japan Atomically Bombed While Germany Was Not Because of Anti-Asian Racism?

Another common myth related to the nuclear bombing of Japan posits that the bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki because of anti-Japanese racism. The theory goes that atomic bombs were not dropped on Germany, and would not have been dropped, because the Germans were Caucasian and neither the US government nor American public opinion would have stomached nuking them. The Japanese on the other hand were racially different, which made the decision to drop atomic bombs on them easier.

It is a historic fact that there was intense racism against Japan and the Japanese during WWII, that far exceeded any hatred directed at the Germans. However, while there was awful racism directed at the Japanese, the theory that said racism explains why Japan was atomically bombed while Germany was not is bunk. No atomic bombs fell on German cities because Germany surrendered before the atomic bomb was ready to drop on anybody. Germany surrendered unconditionally on May 8th, 1945. The first atomic bomb was not successfully tested until July 16th, 1945, more than two months after Germany’s surrender.

These Famous People had Truly Bad Sides to their Personalities
Atomic mushroom cloud over Nagasaki. Time Magazine

8. America Saw the Development of Atomic Weapons as a Race Against the Germans

The US atomic program began with a letter from Albert Einstein to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, that advised him of German research into atomic weapons, and the awful consequences if Hitler got an atomic bomb first. From the start, America’s atomic research was thus viewed and pursued as a life and death race to beat Germany to the atomic punch. The entire goal of the Manhattan Project was to develop atomic bombs to drop on Germany before Germany developed atomic bombs to drop on America and her allies. Germany was simply fortunate in that she surrendered before the Manhattan Project bore the fruits that had been intended all along for Germany.

In addition, nuclear weapons were not viewed back then with the same repugnance with which they are viewed today. They were not seen as awful and horrific last resort weapons whose use would be unthinkable except in the direst emergency. Instead, atomic bombs in the summer of 1945 were new weapons whose potential and impact had not yet been thought through. For most people at the time, an atomic bomb was simply another bomb, just a big and exceptionally destructive one. Modern abhorrence of nuclear weapons did not exist to the same extent when Hiroshima and Nagasaki were bombed. So if America had developed atomic weapons before Germany’s surrender, there would have been few compunctions about their use on German cities.

These Famous People had Truly Bad Sides to their Personalities
Susan B. Anthony, left, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. NJTV

7. The Awful Side of America’s Foremost Women’s Rights Activists

Susan B. Anthony (1820 – 1906) and Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1815 – 1902) were great social reformers and equal rights activists who played a key role in the fight to secure the rights of America’s women. Stanton was the main force behind the 1848 Seneca Falls Convention – the first-ever called for the sole purpose of discussing women’s rights. Both died before the 19th Amendment guaranteed women the right to vote, but they played key roles in laying the groundwork for its passage.

Unfortunately, as is too often true with all too many who did great good, they had an awful side. To wit, racism seems jarring coming from such progressive icons. At one time, Stanton and Anthony were part of the American Equal Rights Association (AERA), which they formed with black abolitionist Frederick Douglass and other reformers in 1866. AERA sought to secure voting rights for both women and blacks. Within a few years, however, Stanton and Anthony went from supporters of blacks’ right to vote to opponents and voiced their opposition in starkly racist terms.

These Famous People had Truly Bad Sides to their Personalities
AERA memorial, 1867. Docs Teach

6. From Racial Progressive to Out and Out Racist

The AERA was surrounded with tensions from early on, that arose from its twin goals of securing the right to vote for both blacks and women. According to its constitution, the AERA’s mission was “to secure Equal Rights to all American citizens, especially the right of suffrage, irrespective of race, color or sex“. In 1867, the organization conducted two major campaigns, one in New York, and the other in Kansas, to improve the political lot of both women and black Americans (and the highly oppressed group of black American women).

In New York, which was rewriting its state constitution at the time, the AERA led petition drives to remove property requirements that specifically discriminated against black voters, and in support of women’s suffrage. In Kansas, the association campaigned for referenda to give both women and blacks the right the vote. However, the combination of the two goals created problems, especially from those who thought it frittered away the focus that should be devoted to one issue or the other. It set the stage for bitter feelings and awful statements and actions by too many otherwise progressive reformers.

These Famous People had Truly Bad Sides to their Personalities
Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Encyclopedia Britannica

5. Elizabeth Cady Stanton Referred to Black Men as “Sambos”

Eventually, the AERA was wrecked because of the question of which of its twin goals, black rights or women’s rights, should be prioritized. Three years after it was founded, the association dissolved amidst bitter arguments about whether or not to support the 15th Amendment, which gave black men and naturalized immigrants the right to vote. Reasonable people could disagree on whether women or black men should be the first to get the vote. Frederick Douglass, an AERA member, wanted to support the 15th Amendment, and simultaneously back the struggle for women’s rights.

Unfortunately, Elizabeth Cady Stanton was not a reasonable person on this issue and reacted with a Klan-like tirade. Her response to the views of Douglass was a racist speech that mocked the black men and immigrants whom the 15th Amendment would enfranchise. She made no bones about her opposition to giving black men the right to vote. Even as Stanton embraced fairness in the abstract, she publicly voiced awful racist views about black men, whom she referred to as “Sambos” and potential rapists.

These Famous People had Truly Bad Sides to their Personalities
Elizabeth Cady Stanton. History

4. A Pioneering Reformer’s Awful Racism

Elizabeth Cady Stanton left little doubt about her racial views. As she put it in a speech opposed to the 15th Amendment’s enfranchisement of black men and immigrants: “Think of Patrick and Sambo and Hans and Yung Tung, who do not know the difference between a monarchy and a republic, who cannot read the Declaration of Independence or Webster’s spelling book, making laws for… Susan B. Anthony … [The amendment] creates an antagonism everywhere between educated, refined women and the lower orders of men, especially in the South“.

Stanton played up awful anti-black racist themes with regularity, especially in the South. There, she argued to Southerners that female voters would maintain the social order because they would balance out black voters, whom she painted as ignorant, backward, and eager to assault white women. Not that there was much need to counter the black vote in the South: within a few years of the 15th Amendment’s passage, Southern states had effectively disenfranchised blacks. Voter suppression means ranging from removing blacks from voter rolls to lynching blacks who dared assert their voting rights, reduced the Southern black vote to insignificance for generations.

These Famous People had Truly Bad Sides to their Personalities
Frederick Douglass, circa 1879. National Archives

3. Despite Being Wounded by these Early Suffragists’ Racist Attacks, Frederick Douglass Continued to Support Women’s Rights

Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton supported equality for women. What they had in mind in practice, however, was not equality for all women, but only for white ones. After the Civil War, while both black and white women sought the right to vote, they had different motives. Stanton and Anthony sought the vote as symbol and substance of parity with their husbands, brothers, and fathers. By contrast, black suffragists sought the vote for both themselves and their menfolk, to empower black communities. Especially in the South, where recently emancipated black citizens were subjected to a violent reign of racist terror to keep them subservient and disempowered.

These Famous People had Truly Bad Sides to their Personalities
Susan B. Anthony. Wikimedia

Stanton’s and Anthony’s awful racist attacks deeply wounded Frederick Douglass, who decried “the employment of certain names such as ‘Sambo’“. However, he declined to stoop to their level and engage in tit-for-tat insults, and instead continued to support women’s rights for the rest of his life. His support was frequently snubbed, with racist insults tossed in to rub salt into the wound. At an 1890s suffrage convention in Atlanta, for example, Susan B. Anthony asked Douglass to not appear on stage with white women. As a black man, she told him, his presence alongside white women would be “inappropriate”.

These Famous People had Truly Bad Sides to their Personalities
Johnny Carson with seven-year-old actress Kaleena Kiff. Los Angeles Times

2. A Beloved Icon’s Awful Side

For three decades, from 1962 to 1992, Johnny Carson, born John William Carson (1925 – 2005), hosted The Tonight Show on NBC. During that time, he set the standard format and template followed by television chat shows ever since, including the guest couch and studio band. He won a Peabody Award, six Emmys, and was inducted into the Television Academy Hall of Fame. Carson also received a Kennedy Center Honor, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom – America’s highest civilian award.

These Famous People had Truly Bad Sides to their Personalities
Johnny Carson being awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by George H.W. Bush and First Lady Barbara Bush in 1992. George H.W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum

He worked hard to cement his perception as the funny and neighborly Midwesterner and perfected his friendly on-air persona. In return, Americans welcomed Carson with open arms into their living rooms as the country’s favorite late-night host. However, when he was not in front of an audience, The King of Late Night Television, as Carson came to be known, was often a horrible human being – a bitter bully, and a mean SOB. Indeed, he was so awful that many famous figures boycotted his show – but quietly, because they feared that he might damage their careers. As seen below, Wayne Newton was an exception.

These Famous People had Truly Bad Sides to their Personalities
Johnny Carson. Biography

1. Johnny Carson Got Slapped Around by One of His Targets for Being a Jerk

While he was on the air, Johnny Carson was sweetness and sunshine, and the epitome of the friendly character we all wish we had as a neighbor. When not in front of the cameras and his adoring audience, however, Carson was an awful jerk who habitually bullied and abused others, and even physically assaulted people in fits of rage. Examples of Carson being a jerk include an attempt to strangle NBC colleague Tom Snyder, his refusal to visit his son who was institutionalized in a mental asylum, and his verbal and physical abuse of his wives.

These Famous People had Truly Bad Sides to their Personalities
Wayne Newton. Associated Press

Celebrities subjected to The King of Late Night TV’s abuse usually stayed quiet to protect their careers from the notoriously vindictive icon. One notable exception was singer and actor Wayne Newton, who did not find it funny when Carson cracked homosexual jokes about him on national TV. Thinking that they were buddies, Newton begged Carson to cut it out, but Carson persisted. So an incensed Newton barged into Carson’s office one day, and slapped him around silly. It was one of the few times that Carson got his comeuppance. The homosexual jokes stopped.


Where Did We Find This Stuff? Some Sources and Further Reading

American Libraries Magazine, June 1st, 2018 – Bringing Harassment Out of the History Books: Addressing the Troubling Aspects of Melvil Dewey’s Legacy

Bushkin, Henry – Johnny Carson (2013)

Cracked – 5 Famous Things That Were Named After Awful People

Encyclopedia Britannica – German-Soviet Nonaggression Pact

Ericson, Edward E. – Feeding the German Eagle: Soviet Economic Aid to Nazi Germany, 1933 – 1941 (1999)

Groves, Leslie R. – Now It Can Be Told: The Story of the Manhattan Project (1983)

History – History Stories: How Early Suffragists Sold Out Black Women

History Collection – Popes Behaving Badly: 8 Dreadful Papal Scandals From the Middle Ages

Independent, The, August 9th, 1995 – City Remembers Day it Escaped the Bomb

Jones, Dan – The Plantagenets: The Warrior Kings and Queens Who Made England (2014)

Las Vegas Sun, January 24th, 2005 – Carson Had Long Vegas History

Montefiore, Simon Sebag – Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar (2003)

Monterey County Historical Society – Land King: The Story of David Jack

National Interest, August 8th, 2018 – Operation Downfall: How America Would Have Invaded Japan

New York Times, July 28th, 2018 – How the Suffrage Movement Betrayed Black Women

Publishers Weekly, June 24th, 2019 – ALA 2019: ALA Votes to Strip Melvil Dewey’s Name From Its Top Honor

Rhodes, Richard – The Making of the Atomic Bomb (1986)

Royal Institute of International Affairs, Vol. 87 No. 3 (May 2011) pp. 709-715 – Review: Russian Historians Defend the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact

Royal Museums, Greenwich – William Bligh

Wiegand, Wayne A. – Irresponsible Reformer: A Biography of Melvil Dewey (1996)

Wikipedia – John, King of England

Wikipedia – Operation Downfall