The magic behind character actor Michael O’Neill

The magic behind character actor Michael O’Neill

In this interview from 2013, we talk to Michael O’Neill … one of the most respected character actors in Hollywood… about taking a one-day stint on The West Wing and turning into a 6-season job. He is one of those actors you see on the TV or movie screen and say “Oh, THAT guy!”

We have a delightful chat talking about the very unusual way he was “discovered,” what his two requirements were before he took on the part of the crazed gunman on Gray’s Anatomy, and how he still lives with the insecurity of the acting business. Plus… his sex scene in Rectify, and how he didn’t recognize Matthew McConaughey on the set of The Dallas Buyer’s Club movie. You will LOVE this guy!

Click the player below to hear the chat with Pam and Michael O’Neill

About Michael:

You’ll remember actor Michael O’Neill  as “Larry Mills” in the critically-acclaimed drama series on NBC –  COUNCIL OF DADS.  Or perhaps as  “Chaplain Kendricks” in the critically acclaimed feature film, CLEMENCY, which won the Sundance Film Festival Grand Jury Prize. He was also “Senator Mitchell Chapin” in Season 2 of TOM CLANCY’S JACK RYAN on Amazon. Other recent appearances for O’Neill include the series’ THE ROMANOFFS, THE RESIDENT, 11.22.63, SHOOTER, S.W.A.T. and a five episode arc in the final season of SCANDAL.

Previous television credits include his four season role on the award winning Sundance TV series, RECTIFY, the CBS series, EXTANT with Halle Berry and A&E’s BATES MOTEL. O’Neill’s memorable TV roles include GREY’S ANATOMY and fan favorite “Special Agent Ron Butterfield” on THE WEST WING, as well as NECESSARY ROUGHNESS, VEGAS, THE GRIM SLEEPER, NCIS, SONS OF ANARCHY and THE UNIT. In feature films, O’Neill played FDA Agent “Richard Barkley” in the award winning DALLAS BUYERS CLUB and his vast credits include J. EDGAR, GREEN ZONE, TRANSFORMERS, SECONDHAND LIONS, TRAFFIC, SEA OF LOVE and SEABISCUIT. O’Neill also recently completed two feature films, THE STAND AT PAXTON COUNTY and INDIVISIBLE.

A native of Alabama, O’Neill has a degree in Economics from Auburn University and will be the Winter 2019 Commencement Speaker.  He was also the 2018 commencement speaker at the University of Montevallo in Alabama. He began his acting career under the mentorship of Will Geer, and his daughter Ellen, at the Theatricum Botanicum in Los Angeles. He is married to Mary O’Keefe O’Neill and they have three wonderful daughters, Ella, Annie and Molly.  O’Neill has served on the Board of the Hollywood Branch of the Screen Actors Guild and has often participated in the SAG-AFTRA Foundation’s BookPALS program, reading to elementary school children.   He has also been involved in Teach for America, Habitat for Humanity, and Focus on Recovery in Birmingham.

For Michael’s facebook page: Click Here
For Michael’s IMDB page: Click Here

Author and Speaker Cy Wakeman on dealing with a messy life

Cy Wakeman’s new book
Life’s Messy, Live Happy

Do you feel like your life is messy? That things are often in chaos and sometimes life just seems so unfair?

Cy Wakeman wrote a book to give us hope. Titled Life’s Messy, Live Happy, she tells us that we are often the source of our own suffering, and how we can flip the switch from suffering to self-reflection. The subtitle is even more inspiring: Things Don’t Have to Be Perfect for You to Be Content.

We’ll talk about how we’re NOT a self-help project, she’ll give us tips on avoiding the roller coaster of emotions, and we’ll hear the story of Good, Bad, Who Knows? It’s a fun chat with lots of good info tucked in to help you Life Happy, even if life IS messy!

Click the player below to hear the chat with Pam and Cy Wakeman

About Cy Wakeman

Cy Wakeman is a drama researcher, international leadership speaker, and consultant. In 2001 she founded Reality-Based Leadership. She is the author of three books: Reality-Based Leadership: Ditch the Drama, Restore Sanity to the Workplace and Turn Excuses Into Results (2010), NY Times Bestseller, The Reality-Based Rules of the Workplace: Know What Boosts Your Value, Kills Your Chances, and Will Make You Happier (2013), and her new release No Ego: How Leaders Can Cut the Cost of Workplace Drama, End Entitlement, and Drive Big Results (2017). In 2017 and 2018, she was named as one of the Top Global Leadership Gurus by Global Gurus, a Top 100 Leadership Expert to Follow on Twitter, and was deemed “the secret weapon to restoring sanity to the workplace.”

For more about Cy Wakeman: Click Here​
or her book, Life’s Messy, Live Happy: Click here
Follow her on Twitter: @cywakeman
And on Instagram: @cywakeman
Click here to watch her videos on YouTube
Click here to follow her on Facebook


NatGeo Explorer Gabby Salazar on Women Explorers and Scientists

No Boundaries!
NatGeo’s Gabby Salazar on  her New Book
No Boundaries – 25 Women Explorers & Scientists

When I was a little girl, all the astronauts were men. We would watch TV shows about Dr. Leakey, the archaeologist. And of course, we loved watching the shows with Jacques Cousteau.

These were amazing people.  But where were the women? We never saw role models at the time in science and exploration to inspire us. Could we even BE scientists and explorers?

Fortunately, now we are starting to hear more of the stories of the women who pioneered the way in those areas. And for young women, and girls, National Geographic brings us No Boundaries… 25 Women Explorers and Scientists Share Adventures, Inspiration, and Advice.  It’s a wonderfully colorful book, filled with bits and pieces of wisdom, and backstories on these women scientists.

In this episode, we talk with Gabby Salazar, one of the authors, and a nature and conservation photographer and social scientist, who has traveled the world, living in tropical rain forests and on tropical islands. We’ll ask her how they chose the women to be included in the book, which story inspired her, and what she hopes girls and young women will take from this book. It’s a conversation sure to inspire you – and the young girls in your life!

Click the player below to hear the chat with Pam and  Gabby Salazar

About Gabby Salazar

GABBY SALAZAR is a National Geographic Explorer, a nature and conservation photographer, and a social scientist. As an Associate Fellow of the International League of Conservation Photographers, she has worked on environmental photography projects across the globe, spending months at a time living in tropical rainforests and on tropical islands. Salazar has an MSc in Conservation Science from Imperial College London and is currently a doctoral student at the University of Florida’s School of Forest, Fisheries, and Geomatics Science, where she studies environmental marketing. She is committed to environmental education and uses photography to get kids outdoors and to connect them with nature.

For more about Gabby Salazar: Click Here​
or her book, No Boundaries: Click here
Follow her on Twitter: @gabbyrsalazar
And on Instagram: @gabbyrsalazar


Pulitzer Prize-Winning Author Michael H. Cottman: Segregated Skies

Pulitzer Prize-Winning Author Michael H. Cottman on
David Harris – the First Black Commercial Airlines Pilot

When you get on a plane to fly somewhere, do you think much about the pilots in the cockpit?  I mean, sure, you hope this isn’t their first flight, and that their eyesight is good. But do you wonder if the pilot is white or black?

Back in the 60s, you wouldn’t have to wonder because the pilots were all White. That is, until David Harris came along.

Pulitzer prize-winning author Michael H. Cottman takes us through the story of Harris, the first Black commercial pilot, in his new book “Segregated Skies: David Harris’ Trailblazing Journey to Rise above Racial Barriers.

Written for young adults, the book is a good read for all ages. In our chat, we learn some of the things that David experienced as a black man in the military and at American Airlines in the 60s. We learn about David’s tenacity, persistence, and doggedness and how he eventually became a role model for all pilots at American Airlines. Plus, how his swagger helped him change the status quo!

In our chat, we also talk about how Michael himself was racially profiled, run off the road and called names. Listen in as we talk about an aviation pioneer, and find some life lessons we can ALL take from this book.

Click the player below to hear the chat with Pam and  Michael Cottman

About Michael Cottman

Michael H. Cottman is an award-winning journalist and author. He is currently program editor for the NBCUniversal News Group’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Team – NBC News/MSNBC/CNBC. He was formerly editorial manager for NBCBLK and worked as a political reporter for the Washington Post and a reporter for the Miami Herald. His past books include Shackles From the Deep, The Wreck of the Henrietta Marie, and Million Man March. He has appeared on National Public Radio’s Tell Me More, CNN, The History Channel, and The Oprah Winfrey Show. Cottman was also part of Newsday’s reporting team that won journalism’s highest honor, the Pulitzer Prize, in 1992 for coverage of a deadly subway crash in New York. He lives in Maryland, where he spends most of his time reading, researching, writing — and looking for the next big adventure to share with readers.

​For his book, Segregated Skies: Click here
Follow him on Twitter: @mhcottman
And on LinkedIn: Click here
Go to his website: Click here

Racial Extremism & the US Military – Dr. Megan McBride of CNA

A surprising portion of the people charged for 1/6
have some sort of military experience.
Do we have a problem in the US Military?

Of the 600+ people charged in the 1/6 insurrection, 12% had some sort of military experience. Both leading up to and in the wake of 1/6, a series of reports called attention to the potential threat posed by extremists in the military. Dr. Megan McBride, a research analyst on both domestic and international terrorism, co-wrote a CNA report about racial extremism in the military, and what needs to be done. How big is the problem? How does the culture of the military fit in to solving this problem? What needs to be done?

Dr. McBride shares some surprising insights and reminds us that the sexual harassment/assault issue in the military hasn’t been solved yet – but we can learn from the approach the military is taking.

If you’re worried about racial extremism in the military, this is a conversation you won’t want to miss.

Click the player below to hear the chat with Dr. Megan McBride & Pam

About Dr. Megan McBride

Megan McBride, PhD, a research analyst in CNA’s Center for Stability and Development, is an expert on international security issues including terrorism, radicalization, and ideological violence. Her work on domestic and international terrorist movements includes anti-abortion terrorism, environmental terrorism, and Islamist terrorism. Her current focus in on extremism in the information space and the evaluation of countering violent extremism and reintegration programming. She is also a fellow at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

For her full report on Racial Extremism in the Military: Click Here

For more deep-dive information from CNA, check out their research page: Click here

Oceanographer, Activist, and Pioneer Dr. Sylvia Earle on “Ocean – A Global Odyssey”

Going Under the Sea with Oceanographer & Activist
Dr. Sylvia Earle as she discusses her new NatGeo book
Ocean – A Global Odyssey

Explorer, oceanographer, and field scientist, Dr. Sylvia Earle has been advocating for the health of our ocean for decades. The author of National Geographic’s  Ocean – A Global Odyssey, Dr. Earle navigates the deep for us and shares stories about everything from the personality of fish to what it was like to be an Aqua-Naughty!

Former Chief Scientist of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration –  NOAA (the first female to hold that job), the designer of underwater submersibles, and the founder of Mission Blue, Dr. Earle is Time’s very first Hero for the Planet and is a pioneer for females in the study of oceanography. We talk about her time under the sea, why this book is so very important, and what over-fishing is doing to the ocean.

Click the player below to hear the chat with Dr. Sylvia Earle & Pam

About Dr. Sylvia Earle

Long recognized as one of the world’s top experts on ocean science and conservation, Sylvia Earle is the president and chairman of Mission Blue and a National Geographic Explorer at Large, and former Chief Scientist of NOAA. Called “Her Deepness” by The New Yorker and the New York Times, a “Living Legend” by the Library of Congress, and a “First Hero for the Planet” by Time magazine, she is an oceanographer, explorer, author, and field scientist. In 1970, told she could not join a crew of men testing an undersea laboratory, she helped recruit and lead an all-woman team of scientists to live underwater for two weeks of research. A passionate advocate on behalf of the ocean, she continues to cross boundaries, pioneer exploration and inspire protection for wildlife and wild places.

​For her book, National Geographic Ocean: A Global Odyssey: Click here

Follow her on Twitter: @sylviaearle

And on Facebook: Click here

For more on Mission Blue, Click here

Lost Cities and Ancient Tombs with NatGeo Editor and Archaeologist Ann R. Williams

Lost Cities and Ancient Tombs with
Archaeologist and NatGeo Editor Ann Williams

Many of us are intrigued with history and lost cities. National Geographic editor and archaeologist Ann R. Williams is one of those people who digs around and writes about discoveries from the past. She’s often been on-hand to witness important discoveries – some that she talks about in the new book from Nat Geo called Lost Cities, Ancient Tombs: 100 Discoveries that Changed the World

This book is a feast of pictures and information about astonishing discoveries – from the Dead Sea Scrolls to the Lost City of the Monkey God.

In our chat, we find out how technology affected archaeology, (we even get an explanation of how LIDAR works!)  accidental discoveries, amateur archaeologists, and the woman who tried on the jewelry of Troy. Plus –  how exciting it is to make “snapshot of a moment” finds.

Click on the player below to hear the chat with Ann R. Williams and Pam

About Ann R. Williams

A National Geographic magazine staff writer for three decades, Ann is now a freelance writer and editor specializing in archaeology and cultural heritage preservation. She has a B.A. in Classical and Near Eastern archaeology from Bryn Mawr College, and an M.A. in West Asian archaeology with a minor in Egyptology from the University of Toronto.


For her book, Lost Cities Ancient Tombs: Click here
Follow her facebook: Click Here

Ann is the president of the DC chapter of the American Research Center in Egypt (ARCE) Here’s a link to that.

Professor and Egyptologist Kara Cooney

The Good Kings
Absolute Power in Ancient Egypt and the Modern World

Dr. Kara Cooney returns to discuss her new and provocative book The Good Kings: Absolute Power in Ancient Egypt and the Modern World. The book covers five Egyptian pharaohs – or kings, if you will – and discusses the concepts surrounding power: how is it earned, who controls it, and why the many often give up power to the few.  Oh… and does any of that correlate to our modern life?

Dr. Cooney tells us how authoritarianism starts, how that power is maintained, and if she is seeing signs of it in the world today. Plus what people gain from aligning with corrupt people in power and why cognitive dissonance is important to allow  corrupt leadership to continue.

We also discuss how in the past women had equal power to men in some areas (would you believe Los Angeles, 300 years ago?!)  And why we are starting to ask what is power, what is value, and why is there so much sexual abuse.

So. Much. Fascinating. Conversation.  Dr. Cooney will give you lots to think about, I promise.

Click on the player below to hear the chat with Kara Cooney and Pam

About Kara Cooney

Dr. Kathlyn (Kara) Cooney is a professor of Egyptian Art and Architecture at UCLA. Specializing in craft production, coffin studies, and economies in the ancient world, Cooney received her PhD in Egyptology from Johns Hopkins University. In 2005, she was co-curator of Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Cooney produced a comparative archaeology television series, entitled Out of Egypt, which aired in 2009 on the Discovery Channel and is available online via Netflix and Amazon.

Her latest book, The Good Kings: Absolute Power in Ancient Egypt and the Modern World, Kara turns to five ancient Egyptian pharaohs–Khufu, Senwosret III, Akenhaten, Ramses II, and Taharqa–to understand why many so often give up power to the few, and what it can mean for our future. Published by National Geographic Press, this book will be released in late 2021.

Her book When Women Ruled the World: Six Queens of Egypt explores the lives of six remarkable female pharaohs, from Hatshepsut to Cleopatra, and shines a light on our own perceptions of women in power today. Published by National Geographic Press, the book was released in 2018.

The Woman Who Would Be King: Hatshepsut’s Rise to Power in Ancient Egypt was Cooney’s first trade book, and it benefits from her immense knowledge of Egypt’s ancient history to craft an illuminating biography of its least well-known female king. As an archaeologist who spent years at various excavations in Egypt, Cooney draws from the latest field research to fill in the gaps in the physical record of Hatshepsut. Published by Crown Publishing Group, the book was released in 2014.

Cooney’s current research in coffin reuse, primarily focusing on the 21st Dynasty, is ongoing. Her research investigates the socioeconomic and political turmoil that have plagued the period, ultimately affecting funerary and burial practices in ancient Egypt. This project has taken her around the world over the span of five to six years to study and document more than 300 coffins in collections, including those in Cairo, London, Paris, Berlin, and Vatican City.

She currently resides in Los Angeles with her husband Remy Hiramoto.

For her book, The Good Kings: Click here
For more from Kara: Click Here
Follow her on Twitter: @KaraCooney
Instagram @KaraCooney

National Geographic Editor in Chief Susan Goldberg on The 21st Century

The 21st Century: Photographs from the
National Geographic Image Collection

Celebrating the first 21 years of the century
with Nat Geo Editor in Chief Susan Goldberg

Can you believe we are already 21 years into the new century? National Geographic is celebrating that with a beautiful new coffee table book – The 21st Century: Photographs from the Image Collection. We chat with NatGeo Editor in Chief Susan Goldberg about this fabulous book that is set up chronologically with 250 photos in 400 pages. We talk about some of the amazing photographs that are products not only of traditional photography, but also images from the innovations of digital, drone and smartphone photography. The book also answers our questions about what the photographer was thinking when he shot the photo and what the backstory is.

We find out how Susan chose only 250 photos from almost 65 million images in the national Geographic Image Collection, and what makes an image iconic. Plus, we also talk about the NatGeo Instagram account – that has over 190 MILLION followers! (they are the largest brand on Instagram)

In addition, Susan shares how the book helps engender compassion and empathy, and how it reminds us that we all are more alike than we are different.

It’s a wonderful book to share with friends and family – to rediscover the past 21 years, and to find new things to inspire us!

Click on the player below to hear the chat with
Susan Goldberg and Pam

About Susan Goldberg

Susan Goldberg is Editor in Chief of National Geographic and editorial director of National Geographic Partners.

As editorial director, she leads all journalism across platforms, including digital journalism, magazines, podcasts, maps, newsletters, and Instagram. She was named editorial director in October 2015 and editor in chief of National Geographic magazine in April 2014.

Susan is the 10th editor and first female editor of the magazine since it was first published in October 1888.

For her book, The 21st Century: Photographs from the Image Collection: Click here
Follow her on Twitter: @susanbgoldberg

Author and Historical Curator John Rhodehamel

Author and Historical Curator John Rhodehamel

When it comes to the Lincoln assassination, we’ve all heard that John Wilkes Booth was insane orthat  he was an alcoholic. But what if the real motivation behind his actions was white supremacy?

John Rhodehamel is the former Archivist of Mount Vernon and the curator of American Historical Manuscripts at the Huntington Library. He’s written several books about George Washington and about Booth. And now he brings us a well researched book called “America’s Original Sin: White Supremacy, John Wilkes Booth and the Lincoln Assassination. It’s the first book to explicitly name white supremacy as the motivation for Lincoln’s assassination.

What brought him to that conclusion? How common  was white supremacy back in the day? Does he see any parallels to today’s world? Plus why was Booth so pro-slavery and Lincoln so anti-slavery, and what was the final straw for Booth?

We had a few technical difficulties with the audio of this chat with John Rhodehamel,  so we offer you a transcript
of the interview instead. See below.

About John Rhodehamel

John Rhodehamel is the former archivist of Mount Vernon and curator of American historical manuscripts at the Huntington Library. He is editor of George Washington: Writings and the American Revolution: Writings from the War of Independence, 1775-1783. He lives in Newport Beach, California.

For his book, America’s Original Sin: Click here







Pam Atherton
John, so very glad to have you with us.

John Rhodehamel
Well, thank you for having me, Pam.

So I guess the first thing is, what is America’s original sin? Where did that phrase come from?

I got it from James Madison, you know, the father of the constitution. In the letter to Lafayette he mentioned, “The dreadful fruitfulness of the Original Sin of the African trade.”  But it is by no means an original notion. People have called slavery and white supremacy our republic’s original sin for a long time, since James Madison. And it’s still used. People still refer to it today as America’s original sin. And of course, we’ve had a lot of discussion of that in the news. The 1619 project, of course, naming white supremacy as the leading characteristic of American civilization. I don’t know if I would go that far, but certainly it goes back four hundred years, from the time of the founding.

So when we think about white supremacy, I don’t know that I ever thought of it is any of the reason behind John Wilkes Booth. I mean, of course, we had heard about his alcoholism. And as we find people say, when assassinations or murders happen, “well, he had mental problems. He had mental issues.” And I think, of course, we go that direction. But I’ve heard you say that when it comes to political assassinations, that rarely is it mental illness, that it’s often politically motivated.

Well, I think it’s very true. Most attacks on presidents and presidential candidates take place for political motives. Booth set the pattern when he was the first to assassinate a president, and he was quite explicit in his writing, some of which were published at the time, that his motivation was to preserve white supremacy. He saw Lincoln as a traitor to the white race. He thought emancipation could lead to what they call race-mixing, and a pollution of the so-called white race. Of course, the whole concept of race is completely unscientific, but it’s been an important one and continues to be important.

Right. So give us a little background on John Wilkes Booth. Tell us a little bit about him, how he grew up, and then eventually how he came into his strong beliefs on being pro-slavery and white supremacist.

Lincoln – I think we can say he hated slavery for so long, he couldn’t remember what he didn’t hate it. I think Booth was the same way. It was the same way in that he was for slavery and loved it for so long, he probably couldn’t remember when that started either. It started in childhood.  He grew up in slave country. His father, Junius Brutus Booth, was the greatest tragic actor in America, preeminent tragedian for more than 30 years. They lived on a farm in Bel Air, Maryland. That was a slave state. And when he was exposed to a lot of people, most of the people he encountered were enslaved, were oppressed.

From a pretty early age he hated abolitionism. He called abolitionism, the movement to end slavery, treason, and that it would really be a disaster. And as early as when he was 20 years old, he wrote a long 5000 word political statement, in the form of speech. He was explicit in saying this country was formed for the white people, it wasn’t for blacks. Blacks are inferior, slavery is benign, and an important institution in which slaves are well-off, and they’re happy in slavery. None of that was true, of course, but many people believed it.

Booth was not an outsider. Most white Americans in the north as well as the south, 160 years ago WERE white supremacists. I think today, when we speak of white supremacy, it calls to mind extremists, radicals, with nazi views and rifles and body armor and all that kind of stuff. It’s an ideology that I believe, and I hope, Americans today abhor. But 160 years ago, not only was it very common, but the civil science of the time had presumably proven that people of color were inferior to Northern Europeans. And the belief was shared by politicians, clergy, journalists, scientists. It was a consensus that was based on the idea of white supremacy.

So, white supremacy at the time, was a very normal thought process. I mean, it was, in a sense, almost even respected. Versus now where of course we abhor that, hopefully, as you said. But at the time, it was a very normal thought process. So John Wilkes Booth wasn’t crazy in that thought, right?

Not at all. His father, Junius Booth, was an alcoholic, and was authentically nuts, even though he did great things. So that’s part of the reason it was easy to put in a charge of insanity and alcoholism on his son.  I think there’s a tendency in American society to deny the importance of politics in assassination, to believe it’s a bolt out of the pathological blue. So yeah, that’s comforting to us. But almost all American assassins except for the guy that killed Garfield, (whose name I can’t pronounce, but he was genuinely crazy), but all the others were acting for political motives, including Lee Harvey Oswald. Booth acted for political motives. He thought he was acting for the white race. And he was astonished, at all the stops for Lincoln’s funeral train, and during the 12 days he was on the run, that in all the newspaper accounts, that most people condemned the assassination. He had thought it would be triumphant. And it’s certainly true that there were hundreds of other men in 1865 who would have been glad to kill Lincoln. It’s just that Booth was the only one who did it. Lincoln was the most detested, most controversial, most hated man in history. Yet the assassination changed that.

So the feeling I got was that if Booth had not assassinated Lincoln, somebody else was going do it.  It was just a matter of time. Was that the feeling at the time?

Oh, certainly. Some people around Lincoln felt that he was in very great danger. But they feared he didn’t take them seriously enough. For 19th century men, sort of a cultural thing, the greatest disgrace was cowardice. And of course Lincoln was not a coward. He had been champion brawler of the Indiana and Illinois frontier. He was a champion wrestler, he could beat anyone. And he was very reluctant to take out precautions because he feared it might make him appear cowardly. And he was also fearless. So despite the efforts of some of his friends and subordinates, he did not take the kind of precautions that he should have. So it’s not unlikely that Booth, or someone like him, would find him.

So how did you come to this conclusion now? How did we miss it over all the years? Was it just easier to assume Booth was crazy and an alcoholic?

I think it’s comforting to believe that assassinations are for those reasons. I would say in the historical profession, it hadn’t been missed. And I’m not claiming that this is an original idea. It’s consensus opinion that white supremacy was one of the main motivations. But there’s never been a book that has supported it to the extent that I have. My book is a dual biography of both Lincoln and Booth. And it’s also an analysis and interpretation of white supremacy as it existed in 1865, as well as the history of the Civil War.

Talk about your research because it is a dual biography. And I was fascinated! We grew up learning about Lincoln, we thought we learned everything there was to know. We knew he was poor. But the abject poverty that he lived in was beyond comprehension to me. I had no idea how absolutely poor he was, and how abandoned he was. So what kind of research did you do that brought you all of this wealth of information?

Well, I’ve been working on this for long time.  We did a big exhibit –  “The Last Best Hope of Earth” – at the Huntington Library in 1993. And I was the sole curator of that exhibition. It was the biography of Lincoln with original documents and manuscripts,  some of which were handwritten. And the Huntington had hundreds of manuscripts. And so I’ve been working on this for quite a while. In terms of Lincoln’s impoverished childhood, again, so much of this has been known to people, but none of it was really emphasized.

Well, it’s fascinating to me to learn both and then to realize that Booth was only 26 when all this happened, when he died. Which is really fairly young.

It certainly is. And he achieved success at a very young age. He was one of the most successful actors of his day. He was critically a brilliant actor, as his father had been and his brother Edward was a brilliant actor. He was an action hero, a star. He was a master of stagecraft. He put on very, very exciting performances. And by the time he was in his early 20s, he was making about twenty thousand dollars a year. Over three quarters of a million today, I suppose. He was making good money at a very young age. He was one of the most successful actors. Yeah, he was an action hero. And boy, he was a great ladies man. He was irresistible to women.  Things were going very well for him. And he knew that the conspiracy he undertook could end up costing him his life, which it did. He said explicitly that he was willing to die for the south, for the white race, and that’s exactly what he ended up doing.

Wasn’t there like 10 kids in his family? How much of this was his need for attention? Perhaps this was how he was going to make his mark?

Well, I don’t know that it had to do with the size of his family. But he was obsessed with fame. He says, from a very young age, that he had to have fame.  And the point is, he wanted major fame, not theatrical celebrity, which he already had. He wanted to go down in history, to be remembered. And he made it clear that even infamy would be acceptable to him. Lasting remembrance. And he certainly did achieve that. Everybody knows his name

An interesting thing I found was at the very end of the book, you’re talking about how one of the things that Booth wanted to do was to destroy Lincoln, and to destroy everything he’d ever done, and make him a footnote of history. When in reality, he did the opposite. Where Lincoln had been unliked, even hated, at that period of time and considered to be a race traitor and not very good at handling what was going on with the country, by his assassination,  he made Lincoln this huge martyr.

It is very ironic.  Lincoln, too, desired fame, but for doing good things. And ironically, Booth, who is this terrible tyrant, had a lot to do with Lincoln’s canonization. Lincoln was killed on Good Friday. That Easter was called the Black Easter. And many, many sermons preached in the north on Sunday talked about him shedding his blood for the country.

So let’s do that contrast of white supremacy then and white supremacy now. With time did those feelings lessen? Is that why for a long period of time, we didn’t hear quite as much about it? Or has it just taken a different form?

Well, I think it’s greatly diminished in force, and numbers of adherence. There have been a series of enlightenments over the last 160 years, some of which are scientific. Anthropologists have demonstrated that there is just a single human species and that blacks and whites just have different ancestries. So, I think I think part of it is simply people becoming more enlightened with the passage of time. But white supremacy 160 years ago was a majority position. Today, it is very much a minority position with a much small percentage of the population having that ideology..

Although I will say, every day in the news, you’re starting to hear more and more people and politicians talking about supremacy and replacement theory, some not even well-veiled. People have become a little bit more emboldened, I think, to talk about it.  I think it’s something that certainly is causing people fear.

Yes it is, And I think we should remember, the Confederacy was specifically founded on white supremacy, and white supremacists today often fly the confederate flag. Surprise, surprise.

The book is called “America’s Original Sin: White Supremacy, John Wilkes Booth and the Lincoln Assassination.” It’s by John Rhodehamel  You can find it at bookstores anywhere. And of course, we’ll have a link to it on our website. If you want to find out more about John, you can go to his author’s page on Amazon and we’ll have a link to that as well. John, this is really a deeply researched book. How long did it take you to put it all together?

Well writing the book, which is 420 pages, took a year. But I think I’ve been writing on the assassination one way or the other for more than 30 years,

So it was just kind of the accumulation of all this learning you’ve done over the years.

And I felt this made a contribution. There were a lot of good books on the assassination. And I’ve read most of them. No one had really emphasized the white supremacy before. So I thought of trying to do that,

Right, to draw that that line, that connection. Because I think it is easy for us. We hear this all the time, after mass shootings. “Well, they were mentally ill.” And, you know, maybe that’s not it. And we need to stop using that as a convenient way to place the blame. Maybe we need to look a little deeper. And that’s what you did with this book where you said, “You know what? His white supremacy was deep, and he really believed in it.”

He certainly did. And said so, in his writings.  He said, this country was formed for white people and not for black people. They are completely secondary to us. And they are better off in slavery.

I’m so glad that most of us are passed believing any of that kind of stuff. What a detrimental thing that has been to humanity. John, this is really an amazing book, it really helps us to understand, and actually puts us there, with Booth being there with Lincoln. As you said, it’s a dual biography of the two of them. And it helps us to understand them better and to understand the times better,  We can’t take their personalities and put them in today’s time, as we understand them. We have to understand what things were like at the time. And you did that for us. So thank you.

Oh, thank you very much, Pam.