In honor of Father’s Day, we did a little research about four American legends and the men who raised them–for better or worse.
Mark Twain is thought to have once said, ”When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.”
None of us can relate to this sentiment, right? Well, whether you grew up thinking your own dad was superman or super out of touch, most people come to a point in life when we realize our parents perhaps knew a little more than we originally thought.
To celebrate Father’s Day, we’re highlighting four of America’s most legendary names. But rather than shining the spotlight directly on them, we’re swinging it off to the side and focusing on dear old dad to see what kind of men raised four of the individuals who drastically changed our nation.
1. Mark Twain (Samuel Langhorne Clemens): Mark Twain’s father, John Marshall Clemens, was born in 1798 in Lynchburg, Virginia. He was named after the Chief Justice John Marshall. A licensed attorney, Clemens ended up moving to Tennessee for a time, working as a county commissioner and circuit clerk. He tried his hand at opening a number of stores, but when that proved unsuccessful, he relocated to Missouri, where he worked as a store owner as well as a county judge.
Though Twain is attributed with the above humorous quote about his father, he didn’t actually know his own father by the time he was 14. When Twain was 11 years old, his father died of pneumonia, and Twain had to quit school to work as a typesetter. It was this experience in typesetting, however, that first got him into the literary world and can well be attributed for his future success in short stories and literature.
2. Babe Ruth (George Herman Ruth, Jr.): Babe Ruth’s father, George Herman Ruth, Sr., was born in 1871 in Baltimore. He went into the lightning rod business just like his family had done before him, and he also worked as a bartender at his family’s saloon. During a couple years of Babe’s childhood, his father ran his own saloon, and the family lived above it. When Babe was 7, his father sent him off to a boarding school for the next 12 years. Babe’s mother died, and his father didn’t really maintain a relationship with his son. In August of 1918, George, Sr. died just two months before his son led the Boston Red Sox to a World Series victory against the Chicago Cubs.
3. Amelia Earhart: The pioneering female pilot’s father, Edwin Stanton Earhart, was born in 1872 in Kansas. He was a lawyer at the time of Amelia’s birth, but he failed to impress his wealthy socialite in-laws. Though Amelia and her sister enjoyed many of the comforts of wealth because of their grandparents, their father was never able to provide them with enough to satisfy the high standard maintained by those grandparents.
When his law practice took a nosedive, Edwin began working with the Rock Island Line Railroad in Iowa, moving there with his wife Amy three years before their girls followed from their grandparents’ home in 1908. Though Edwin was promoted in 1909 and the family enjoyed a more comfortable lifestyle, all was temporary as Edwin began to drink and eventually became a public alcoholic. In 1914, Amelia’s mother left her father, moving her girls into the home of a friend in Chicago.
4. Martin Luther King, Jr.: One of the more inspiring stories of father-child relationships, Martin Luther King, Sr. was born in 1899 and went on to become a Baptist missionary with just the type of strong ideals his son became so famous for. King pastored Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church, also making a name for himself as a leader in the Civil Rights Movement. He stood as head of Atlanta’s chapter of the NAACP and spurred his son on toward working for equality for all men.
Writing about his father in his 1950 essay “An Autobiography of Religious Development,” Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “I guess the influence of my father also had a great deal to do with my going in the ministry. This is not to say that he ever spoke to me in terms of being a minister, but that my admiration for him was the great moving factor; He set forth a noble example that I didn’t mind following.” King, Sr. outlived his son by 16 years.