Look Who’s Turning 65
July 1 – Mike Haynes
A standout athlete for both the New England Patriots and the Los Angeles Raiders, cornerback Mike Haynes was also a standout punt return specialist. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1997, and the College Football Hall of Fame in 2000.
Haynes was a first-round pick in the 1976 NFL draft for the Patriots. The team wasn’t disappointed, as he delivered eight interceptions and an AFC-leading 608 yards on 45 punt returns. He also gave the team their first touchdown on punt return, then followed it up with another. His work on the field earned him a Pro Bowl invitation as a rookie player, the first of nine such invites he would receive over his career. He also got tapped for NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year after the Patriots went 11-3 and secured a playoff berth for the first time in 13 years.
Haynes played seven years with the Patriots, racking up 28 interceptions and 1,159 yards on 111 returns. In 1984, Haynes was inducted into the Patriots Hall of Fame and the team retired his number.
In November 1983, his contract was awarded to the Los Angeles Raiders under a settlement that handed the Patriots a 1984 No. 1 draft pick and a No. 2 pick the following year. Haynes played the last five games of the season, then started in Super Bowl XVIII. The Raiders emerged victorious as Haynes made an interception, two pass breakups and a tackle.
Over seven seasons with the Raiders, Haynes notched 18 interceptions for a career total of 46 that he returned for 688 yards and two touchdowns, including one for 97 yards against Miami. He had the honor of being an All-Pro pick five years, and a choice for All-AFC eight years.
July 11 – Leon Spinks
Leon Spinks managed one of the biggest upsets in boxing history when he defeated Muhammed Ali to win the undisputed heavyweight championship in 1978 in only his eighth professional fight. The split decision gave Spinks the distinction of being the only man to take a title from Ali in the ring. However, in a rematch seven months later, the aging Ali showed up more in-shape and sharper to win back his title by unanimous decision after 15 rounds.
Spinks went on to fight future WBA world heavyweight champ Gerrie Coetzee, European title holder Alfredo Evangelista and Eddie Lopez, but he would never regain the title or glory of his fight against Ali. Spinks switched to cruiserweight in 1982, and then competed in boxer v. wrestler matches in the 1980s, boxing again into the 1990’s, and finally retiring at the age of 42.
Spinks was known for his gapped-tooth grin, a result of losing two, and later four, of his front teeth in the ring. He has slurred his words since his boxing days, likely a result of punches he took. His son Cory Spinks held the undisputed welterweight title. His other son, Leon Calvin, was tragically shot to death while he drove home in East St. Louis in 1990. Calvin had a 2-0 record as a light heavyweight pro boxer at the time. His son, and Spink’s grandson, Leon Spinks III, is an aspiring light heavyweight southpaw with seven knockouts to his credit. Spinks moved to Las Vegas in 2011 with his wife, Brenda.
July 15 – Jean-Bertrand Aristide
President of Haiti
Haiti’s first democratically elected president, Aristide became wildly popular as a champion of the poor. Originally a Roman Catholic priest, he became popular railing against abuses fomented by the corrupt family dictatorship of Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier and his father, “Papa Doc” Duvalier. At the same time, Aristide was appointed to St. Jean Bosco church, in a poor area of Port-au-Prince. There, he sponsored weekly youth Masses and founded an orphanage while championing the aspirations of Haiti’s dispossessed. He survived four assassination attempts for his efforts, including a 1988 attack where 13 parishoners were killed and 70 wounded, and his church was burned to the ground while army and police stood by and did nothing.
Aristide didn’t spare criticism of the church hierarchy, and in the same year was expelled from his Salesian order. Accused of “incitement to hatred and violence,” Aristide slammed the church for failing to adequately support the poor over the rich, noting Jesus could not accept the people going hungry.
During his short-lived initial term in office, Aristide attempted to instill reforms such as bringing the military under civilian control, investigating human rights violations, bringing Duvalier’s henchmen to trial, and prohibiting many wealthy Haitians from leaving the country pending an examination of their bank accounts. Making this many enemies in high places didn’t serve him well, and he was ousted in a 1991 coup d’état.
Aristide returned from exile to rule again from 2001-2004, when he called for colonizer France to repay $21 billion for making Haiti hand over 90 million gold francs in restitution for French property taken during the Haitian rebellion that ended in 1947. In 2004, Aristide claims France and the U.S. participated in a “kidnapping” after he was forced to resign when he was threatened with death if he refused to go. Aristide alleges that the U.S. reneged on promises made regarding privatization of enterprises and then “relied on a disinformation campaign” to discredit him. Congressman Maxine Waters supported the assertions.
After a long exile, Aristide returned to Haiti in 2011 where he was greeted at the airport by thousands of supporters. Western countries worry that his participation in politics could “destabilize” the country. However, mass disenfranchisement grips Haiti, which has gone from 60 percent voter participation when Aristide was running for office to at most 20 percent now.
Aristide’s major achievements in office include greatly increased access to health care and education for the general population, increasing adult literacy from 35 percent to 55 percent, improving human rights, doubling the minimum wage, instituting land reform, assistance to small farmers, establishing a food distribution network for the poor, building low-cost housing and attempting to reduce government corruption.
July 20 – Thomas Friedman
Three-time Pulitzer Prize winner Thomas Friedman writes for The New York Times with extensive grounding on foreign affairs, global trade, the Middle East and environmental issues. Lofty stuff for a guy who originally wanted to be a professional golfer and caddied for Chi Chi Rodriquez at the 1970 U.S. Open.
Dreams fade, others take their place, and Friedman graduated from Brandeis with a degree in Mediterranean studies, then attended Oxford as a Marshall Scholar, leaving with an M. Phil. in Middle Eastern studies. Following, his career in journalism started in London and took him to Lebanon, Jerusalem and all over the world. Among his many awards is the Pulitzer Prize for Commentary for his “clarity of vision, based on extensive reporting, in commenting on the worldwide impact of the terrorist threat.”
Interestingly, Friedman doesn’t see that threat coming from immigrants. He writes: "It is pure idiocy that Congress will not open our borders – as wide as possible – to attract and keep the world's first-round intellectual draft choices in an age when everyone increasingly has the same innovation tools and the key differentiator is human talent."
FAMOUS & 65 is a featured article in the Senior Spirit newsletter.
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