History Book – A jazz pioneer and an iconic American building

NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Monday, January 13th. You’re listening to WORLD Radio and we’re so glad you are! Good morning. I’m Nick Eicher.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard. Coming next on The World and Everything in It: the WORLD Radio History Book.

Today, President Bill Clinton honors an American soldier, more than 100 years after the battle. Plus, an iconic building is completed despite plenty of obstacles to get it built.

EICHER: But first, Paul Butler introduces us to a modern American jazz pioneer.

PAUL BUTLER, REPORTER: We begin today with January 17th, 1920, in New York City—the birthday of  composer and jazz pianist George Handy


Handy is best known for his “bebop” style that emerged in the 1940s. Its characterized by quick tempos, complex chord progressions, and lots of key changes. 


Bebop was different from the popular swing music of the era. Due to its fast tempo, tricky syncopation, and complicated melodies, it wasn’t good for dancing to. 

George Handy attended New York University and Juilliard. He studied under the great American composer Aaron Copland. Handy went on to play, arrange, and compose for Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw, the Dorsey brothers, and many others. 


Handy is also known for his collaboration with saxophonist Zoot Sims in the 1950’s.

George Handy died just a few weeks before his birthday in 1997. He was 76 years old.

Next, January 15th, 1943. After just two years of construction, the U.S. Military dedicates one of the most recognizable buildings in America—the Pentagon.

DOCUMENTARY CLIP: The facing of the building is Indiana limestone.

Audio from a Joint Forces documentary.

DOCUMENTARY: The final design is five concentric buildings called rings with light-wells in between. Corridors on the corners allowed for diagonal routes from one part of the building to another…

The Pentagon cost $83 million to complete. At times, construction outpaced design. Due to steel shortages during World War II, the engineers built the Pentagon with reinforced concrete.

More than 23,000 people work in the Pentagon. It is the world’s largest office building, with nearly six and a half million square feet of space. If you were to walk every hallway in the structure, it would be a 17 mile hike. 

The Pentagon is on the National Register of Historic Places and is a National Historic Landmark.

And finally, January 16th, 2001. President Bill Clinton awards a posthumous Medal of Honor.

CLINTON: The second Medal of Honor I award today is for the bravery of Lieutenant Colonel Theodore Roosevelt, on July 1, 1898. That was the day he led his volunteer troops, the Rough Riders, in taking San Juan Hill…

The ceremony takes place in the White House Roosevelt Room. Clinton jokes that this is the 37th Medal of Honor he’s presented during his two terms as president—but it’s the first time he’s done so in a recipient’s old office. 

CLINTON: TR was a larger-than-life figure, who gave our nation a larger- than-life vision of our place in the world. Part of that vision was formed on San Juan Hill. His Rough Riders were made up all kinds of Americans from all walks of life.  Twenty-two people won the Medal of Honor for actions that day. Two high-ranking military officers who had won the Medal of Honor in earlier wars and who saw Theodore Roosevelt’s bravery recommended him for the medal, too.

But the War Department never took action.

As President Clinton stands in front of a portrait of Teddy Roosevelt, Clinton says it’s time to make things right after 103 years. 

CLINTON: We are profoundly grateful as Americans for this remarkable family. And I am honored that I had the chance before I left office to correct what I think is a significant historical error. Here’s what he said, way back then:  “We know there are dangers ahead, as we know there are evils to fight and overcome. But stout of heart, we see across the dangers the great future that lies beyond, and we rejoice.” Let these words continue to guide as, as we go forth into a new century.  May we continue to live up to the ideals for which both Andrew Jackson Smith and Theodore Roosevelt risked their lives.

That’s this week’s WORLD Radio History Book, I’m Paul Butler.


WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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