February 11 - 1812: The Gerrymander is born

1971: Senator Edward Kennedy gets his driver's license back. 2006: "Jaws" author Peter Benchley dies
A police diver examines the inside of the Kennedy car in the water aside the Dyke Bridge in Chappaquiddick.

1971: Ted Kennedy's driver's license renewed after Chappy accident

Accident ended his bid
for the Presidency

On this day in 1971, as reported by United Press International -

BOSTON (UPI) - Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., whose driver's license was revoked following his accident on Chappaquiddick Island in which Mary Jo Kopechne died, has been issued a new license, it was learned Monday.

Registrar of Motor Vehicles Richard E. McLaughlin said Kennedy applied for a new license shortly before Thanksgiving and was granted a four-year license on the day after Thanksgiving. It expires on his birthday, Feb. 22, in 1974.

Kennedy took the required tests at the Plymouth office of the registry on Nov. 27. He said he wanted the license to be able to drive his mother, Rose Kennedy, on some of her local trips on Cape Cod.

Miss Kopechne, a young secretary, died when Kennedy's car plunged off a bridge into a tidal pool on July 18, 1969. A week later, the lawmaker pleaded guilty in District Court to a charge of leaving the scene of an accident and became subject to a one-year suspension of his right to drive. He was eligible to apply for reinstatement anytime after that year was up.

The Accident at Chappy ended Ted's chances for the White House

Kopechne and Edward Kennedy left the party at 11:15pm. Kennedy had offered to take Kopechne back to her hotel. He later explained what happened: "I was unfamiliar with the road and turned onto Dyke Road instead of bearing left on Main Street. After proceeding for approximately a half mile on Dyke Road I descended a hill and came upon a narrow bridge. The car went off the side of the bridge.... The car turned over and sank into the water and landed with the roof resting on the bottom. I attempted to open the door and window of the car but have no recollection of how I got out of the car. I came to the surface and then repeatedly dove down to the car in an attempt to see if the passenger was still in the car. I was unsuccessful in the attempt."

Instead of reporting the accident Edward Kennedy returned to the party. According to a statement issued by Kennedy on 25th July, 1969: "instead of looking directly for a telephone number after lying exhausted in the grass for an undetermined time, walked back to the cottage where the party was being held and requested the help of two friends, my cousin Joseph Gargan and Paul Markham, and directed them to return immediately to the scene with me - this was some time after midnight - in order to undertake a new effort to dive."

Found guilty of leaving the scene of an accident, two-month suspended sentence

Edward Kennedy was found guilty of leaving the scene of the accident and received a suspended two-month jail term and one-year driving ban. That night he appeared on television to explain what had happened. He explained:

"My conduct and conversations during the next several hours to the extent that I can remember them make no sense to me at all. Although my doctors informed me that I suffered a cerebral concussion as well as shock, I do not seek to escape responsibility for my actions by placing the blame either on the physical, emotional trauma brought on by the accident or on anyone else. I regard as indefensible the fact that I did not report the accident to the police immediately."

At the inquest Judge James Boyle raised doubts about Kennedy's testimony. He pointed out that as Kennedy had a good knowledge of Chappaquiddick Island he could not understand how he managed to drive down Dyke Road by mistake.

For example, on the day of the accident, Kennedy had twice had driven on Dyke Road to go to the beach for a swim. To get to Dyke Road involved a 90-degree turn off a metaled road onto the rough, bumpy dirt-track.

(Above photos: A magazine of the period delighted in tweaking our Senior US Senator.)

1812: The Gerrymander is born

Bill author, Mass. Governor Elbridge Gerry, became US Vice President

On this day in 1812, a political monster - the "Gerrymander" - was born in the Massachusetts State House.

Governor Elbridge Gerry signed a bill that created oddly-shaped voting districts in several parts of the state. The lines of these districts gave Gerry's party an advantage in the upcoming election.

An artist added a head, wings, and claws to the strange shape that was the governor's new home district and declared it looked like a salamander. A quick-witted friend decided a better name was "Gerrymander."

Within a month, the image appeared as a cartoon in the local papers, and that same year Gerry became Vice President under James Madison.

2006: "Jaws" author Peter Benchley dies

On this day in 2006, author Peter Benchley died at the age of 65. Benchley, a prolific American writer, is probably best know for "Jaws".  "Jaws" the novel was published in 1974 and the blockbuster film, directed by Steven Spielberg, with the screenplay co-written by Benchley, hit the silver screen in 1975.

"Jaws" was set in the fictional town of Amity Island and filmed mostly on Martha's Vineyard. Benchley even had a cameo role in the movie.

Benchley's tale of a hungry and unrelenting shark kept a lot of people out of the water that summer.

Click on the image on right or here to see the movie trailer.

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