TIME Television

Mad Men’s Final Word on the 1960s … And Today

Jon Hamm as Don Draper - Mad Men _ Season 7B, Gallery - Photo Credit: Frank Ockenfels 3/AMC
Frank Ockenfels 3/AMC Jon Hamm as Don Draper in 'Mad Men'

The final season will show if Don Draper is, at heart, Dick Nixon or Ronald Reagan

History News Network

This post is in partnership with the History News Network, the website that puts the news into historical perspective. The article below was originally published at HNN.

April 5 marks the beginning of the end for Mad Men, and viewers anxiously await a final coda to creator Matthew Weiner’s tale. Will advertising executive Don Draper’s tumultuous peaks and valleys experiences of the 1960s conclude with happiness or tragedy?

The 1960 film, The Apartment, and presidential history during that decade, may hint at an answer.

Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner has cited this Academy Award winning movie as an important inspiration for his serial drama. Since The Apartment ended on a positive note with the main character finding love, viewers might expect a similar conclusion to Weiner’s production. More significantly, The Apartment stands as a cultural symbol of the youthful optimism for social change that many Americans associate with the 1960s. Along with the defeat of Richard Nixon by the youthful, vigorous John Kennedy in the 1960 presidential election, The Apartment’s director, Billy Wilder, helped create today’s conventional wisdom that the year 1960 represented a break from the staid conformity characteristic of the 1950s.

In The Apartment, Director Wilder presents protagonist C.C. “Bud” Baxter as a young, bored number-cruncher (played by Jack Lemmon) in the accounting division of a corporation known as Consolidated Life Insurance. There are two primary settings where the characters interact—the vast 19th floor of seemingly endless rows of desks in the skyscraper where Baxter works, and Baxter’s small apartment in New York City.

The story’s problem emerges when Consolidated Life’s personnel director Jeffrey Sheldrake asks Baxter if the rumors are true that married senior executives have borrowed Baxter’s apartment to conduct secret extramarital affairs. Sheldrake’s intent, we soon discover, is not to reprimand Baxter, but to borrow his key so that Sheldrake may have exclusive privileges to bring his own mistresses to Baxter’s den of iniquity.

Although Sheldrake rewards the junior executive with a 27th floor private office and a bowler hat to boot, Baxter soon regrets the decision when he finds himself having to choose between his career and his love for Fran Kubelik, an elevator operator (played by Shirley MacLaine) in his company’s building. When Baxter discovers that Kubelik is one of Sheldrake’s conquests, he must either cling to his newfound place on the corporate ladder or fight for this damsel in distress. In witnessing Baxter’s decision to abandon the company in exchange for romantic love, we recognize a rejection of the 1950s culture of conformity which sociologists, novelists, and journalists portrayed in books such as The Power Elite, The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit, and The Organization Man.

The Apartment concludes with Baxter’s rejection of conformist and debased corporate culture, but Mad Men presents Don Draper as still engaged in the struggle to maintain individual autonomy in the complacent, risk-averse, and conformist white-collar world. In order to carry the drama forward through the 1960s, Weiner created a character more complex than Wilder’s Baxter. Viewers balance Don’s misogyny against his elevation of his secretary Peggy Olson to a position of copy editor. His infidelity is placed in the context of his troubled past growing up in a whorehouse. In the Darwinian jungle of corporate America, furthermore, Draper’s ambition and authoritarianism appear somehow necessary for a man who began without inherited wealth or business contacts.

In Season One, Weiner used the Nixon-Kennedy presidential contest as a Hegelian thesis-antithesis recasting of The Apartment’s theme. Nixon hires Draper’s advertising firm, Sterling Cooper, to help publicize his 1960 presidential campaign. The upstart Kennedy’s victory appears as a tragic defeat for the company’s corporate elite that seeks to perpetuate the conformist 1950s. The image of a triumphant Kennedy symbolizes the hope for change in the new decade, and Draper appears to represent this icon of youthful optimism. In one episode, a character describes the youthful, handsome, and decisive Draper as Kennedyesque—distinct from the common corporate type–saying “You’re JFK!”

But Draper identifies more with Nixon. Somewhat surprisingly, Weiner’s protagonist thinks Nixon’s defeat says more about how the candidate’s handlers failed to present his background than about the spirit of the age. When Draper sees Nixon, he says, he sees himself—a self-made man of the people. Draper’s self-image is not as a member of the power elite, but neither as an idealist. He is a working class man pursuing the American Dream. While many of the Mad Men characters—including Draper—appear to admire Kennedy, the president’s tragic assassination in 1963 casts a pall over the ebullient optimism which Draper, his family, and work associates embodied in the first three seasons.

Given that the program is concluding during 1969—Nixon’s first year as president–Washington Post opinion writer Alyssa Rosenberg has posited that Nixon was “the key to understanding Don Draper.” In Rosenberg’s view, Nixon’s ability to come back from multiple political defeats—including the 1960 presidential campaign and a failed 1962 bid for governor of California—appeared as the model for Draper’s similar skill at surviving setbacks by reinventing himself.

The Kennedy-Nixon dialectic certainly serves as one way of understanding the tension between hope and cynicism in Mad Men, but another politician–Ronald Reagan—may provide the model that Weiner has in mind for Draper’s ultimate fate. Draper’s creative genius and macho cool seems more similar to Reagan’s Hollywood confidence and calm than to Nixon’s calculated professionalism. While Nixon and Draper certainly reinvented themselves multiple times, Draper does not seem to share the dark side that Nixon’s closest aides identified in the former president.

Reagan’s sunny optimism wedded to “tough love” conservatism seems to embody the synthesis that Draper will need to embrace in the years following the Kennedy and Nixon administrations. Similar to Reagan, who was elected governor of California in 1967 (and again in 1971), Draper survived by balancing artistic and practical responses to challenges. Hollywood plays an important role in Draper’s professional and personal lives. Reagan’s divorce and remarriage serve as another parallel with Draper (and not with Kennedy or Nixon). Finally, Reagan’s penchant for concealing his inner self appears akin to the mysterious Draper, who hides his true identity as Dick Whitman from even his closest friends, who are few.

If The Apartment served as a Muse for Weiner’s Mad Men, viewers can expect Don Draper to walk off the screen this year facing a sunny future. Just as Billy Wilder’s film portrayed the protagonists as rejecting 1950s corporate conformity, Mad Men began in 1960 with a theme of individual liberation. The Apartment did not require C.C. Baxter and Fran Kubelik to sacrifice the ideal of romantic love, and Mad Men has vindicated that choice by celebrating the 1960s office culture as a space of social revolution.

But as 1969 draws to a close, Draper will need to engage with the rise of corporate power during the Age of Reagan, as historian Sean Wilentz has characterized the 1974-2008 United States. Indeed, one of the subtexts of Mad Men has been the rising importance of work in the lives of Americans. Weiner’s narrative has shown how corporate America’s adoption of the 1960s liberation movements strengthened rather than weakened capitalism’s roots in the United States. In many cases, Don Draper and his colleagues Pete, Ron, Joan, and Peggy formed closer relationships with their colleagues and their firm than with their own wives, husbands, and children. Weiner surely knows that the show’s fans want those bonds to last a lifetime.

Thomas J. Carty, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor of American Studies at Springfield College.

TIME Congress

Harry Reid’s Early Retirement Announcement Shows How Much He Likes to Plan Ahead

Harry Reid
Douglas Graham—Roll Call/Getty Images Harry Reid on July 10, 2000

The Senate minority leader will not seek reelection in 2016

By announcing early that he will not run for reelection next fall, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid has freed up party resources that might have been spent on what would have been a tough race for other elections — a major reason behind his early decision, as he told the New York Times. That kind of planning ahead is not unusual for the minority leader.

Reid’s personal background might not peg him as a super planner: as TIME explained in a 2004 profile, he was once an amateur boxer, the son of “a hard-drinking gold miner.” (His mother’s pay came from taking in laundry from brothels.) But he devoted himself to finding stability, including through a conversion to Mormonism, and ended up the kind of person who famously carries around notecards on which to record every promise he makes, with the idea that he’ll later be able to record when he fulfills them.

One of the best illustrations of that forward-looking nature was explained in that same 2004 article, in which TIME’s Douglas Waller laid out how the Senator prepared for a filibuster:

Harry Reid is the kind of adversary who might just wear you down. Last year, for example, the Nevada Senator staged a one-day filibuster, standing on the Senate floor and talking for eight hours and 35 minutes straight to put majority leader Bill Frist hopelessly behind schedule on other bills that he wanted to rush through before the Thanksgiving recess. Reid planned everything carefully, down to his diet. So he wouldn’t be forced to go to the bathroom and lose his right to the floor, he ate only a slice of wheat bread and a handful of unsalted peanuts for breakfast, kept Senate pages from refilling the water glass at his desk and made sure he sipped only half of it during the day.

One thing he can’t plan, of course, is the one thing that many Washington-watchers will wonder most: who will take his place as the leader of the Senate Democrats.

Read the full 2004 story, here in the TIME archives: Herding the Democrats

TIME health

What Experts Got Wrong About Viagra

Small blue Viagra pills, Pfizer's pharma
Suzanne Opton—The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Small blue Viagra pills, separated by machine, in 1998

March 27, 1998: Viagra is approved by the FDA

It was the miracle drug to beat all miracle drugs; an instant bestseller that topped the sales figures of Big Pharma’s other greatest hits: Prozac and Rogaine. After the FDA approved Viagra on this day, March 27, in 1998, sales of the drug rose quickly — pumped by an early rush that yielded at least 10,000 scripts a day, per a TIME cover story about the drug — and had staying power, as evidenced by Pfizer’s annual profit of about $1.8 billion as of 2013 and the fact that our email inboxes are still routinely barraged with spam offers for the drug.

It was a magic bullet for many men, but one that TIME initially feared would herald “the end of sex as we know it.”

“Could there be a product more tailored to the easy-solution-loving, sexually insecure American psyche than this one?” Bruce Handy wondered in the 1998 piece.

There were many who saw chemically-induced erection as a slippery slope to a Sleeper-style orgasmatron.

“People always want a quick fix,” one psychiatrist complained to TIME. “They think Viagra is magic, just like they thought the G spot worked like a garage-door opener.”

Seventeen years later, sex as we know it hasn’t ended — it’s still happening in more or less the usual ways, whether or not Viagra is a part of it. But what was a godsend for men hasn’t opened any doors for women with sexual dysfunction. That’s not for lack of trying: A drug hailed as “the female Viagra” has undergone extensive clinical trials and been submitted to the FDA three times so far, most recently last month, but has never been approved, as Cosmopolitan reports.

The two drugs operate differently, as one might expect: while Viagra stimulates blood flow to the genitals, it doesn’t act on the brain. The proposed drug for women, flibanserin, instead works on neurotransmitters to increase sexual desire.

The fact that there are now several drugs on the market for men’s sexual troubles and none for women constitutes sexism, some have argued, especially since an estimated 16 million women over the age of 50 suffer from some form of sexual dysfunction. A new campaign called “Even the Score” focuses on just this disparity, calling on the FDA to make “safe & effective treatments for low [female] desire” a priority.

In the meantime, a North Carolina doctor has patented a spinal implant that can produce orgasms at the push of a button, although he’s had trouble securing the funding to perfect the device. He calls it the Orgasmatron.

Read the 1998 cover story, here in the TIME Vault: The Potency Pill

TIME movies

Why the DreamWorks Launch Would Never Happen Today

Mar. 27, 1995, cover of TIME
Cover Credit: MATTHEW ROLSTON The Mar. 27, 1995, cover of TIME

Revisiting TIME's 1995 cover story about the then-upstart studio

Starting a major Hollywood studio isn’t easy—but for a moment 20 years ago, Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg and David Geffen made it look that way.

On the March 27, 1995, cover of TIME, the three men, collectively known as SKG, posed together under the headline “The Players”; the Oscar-winning director, the record-industry legend and the executive had joined forces (and pooled cash) the year prior to create a company, DreamWorks, that had not yet actually produced anything. No matter! The trio all had sterling track records (Spielberg was coming off the double success of Jurassic Park and Schindler’s List in 1993) and the sheer brio of it made their coming-together newsworthy.

“I guarantee that, when their first film premieres, everyone will say, ‘This is it? This is what these three geniuses have come up with?’,” Tom Hanks, friend to all three men, said in Richard Corliss’ TIME cover story. But at the time, that was all in the future. What underpins TIME’s 1995 coverage of DreamWorks is a sense of just how rare it is for a new force to rise in a Hollywood governed by a set of old, ossified studios. DreamWorks obtained investments, Corliss wrote, based on the hope that it would be “the prototype plugged-in multimedia company of the new millennium.” That it ultimately spent about ten years as an independent entity, largely producing traditional, mid-budget films rather than creating synergistic, plugged-in entertainments is unsurprising in retrospect—but TIME’s in-the-moment exuberance is completely understandable. After all, a new studio is something rare, and something that’s only grown rarer.

SKG didn’t spur imitators among independent producers, which is hardly surprising. Few people with the assets to start a studio, and the trustworthiness to obtain an even bigger line of credit to bankroll it going forward, need the trouble that Corliss’ piece hinted was ahead for SKG. “At DreamWorks, Katzenberg is a man with a mission; the other two are in it for the fun, which could wear thin quickly,” he wrote. But it seems, from the outside, that the studio’s difficulties had less to do with any clash in motivations than with facts on the ground about how Hollywood was changing.

The past decade has been as fallow for the upstarts that have by-and-large failed to materialize as it’s been stressful for the specialty divisions of major studios: Paramount Vantage and Warner Bros.’ New Line have been absorbed into their parent companies. In a marketplace that’s more and more defined by tentpole franchise pictures, the degree of difficulty in building a studio based on mid-range films (like DreamWorks’s inaugural films, The Peacemaker and Amistad) has grown steeper. Independent operators in Hollywood have found the industry, of late, particularly inhospitable. A trio like SKG would be yet more novel today than they were in 1995—but they simply don’t exist.

In late 2005, a bit more than a decade after their TIME cover, DreamWorks was sold by its founders to the media conglomerate Viacom, which also owned Paramount Pictures. The onetime new kid on the block was now effectively shackled to the epitome of the Hollywood establishment. They’d had several hits, including the animated Shrek franchise, but plenty of bad press as well; it turns out running a company in the present tense was more difficult than attracting positive press for future prospects.

“No one doubted the artistic talent at DreamWorks SKG when it was launched in 1994 amid hype befitting its superstar founders,” TIME noted some months before the sale, after an attempt to take the company’s animation division public failed miserably and DVD sales of Shrek 2 were wildly miscalculated. “Overlooked in the face of such Tinseltown royalty, though, was that none were proven CEOs.” It turned out that the trio’s $1 billion initial assets for the company were “perhaps a fifth of what was needed.” DreamWorks still had high hopes for the animated films that lay ahead, but TIME accurately predicted that Fox, Sony and Disney, all legacy media companies with long histories, would come roaring into that space as competitors; this year, DreamWorks Animation laid off 500 employees.

These days, the model for an independent producer is Megan Ellison, the 29-year-old heir to billionaire tech executive Larry Ellison. Her Annapurna Pictures finances movies that are risky (Zero Dark Thirty, Her, Spring Breakers) rather than Spielberg’s straight-over-the-plate commercial pictures. She can afford not to be a good CEO. Spielberg and company could not. Their 1995 spotlight on TIME’s cover represents a fleeting moment of possibility before the ground shifted.

Read the full 1995 cover story, here in the TIME Vault: Hey, Let’s Put On a Show!

TIME Aviation

Why We May Never Be Certain the Germanwings Crash Was Deliberate

A similar 1999 crash remains shrouded in mystery

As investigators continue to search for clues about the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525, a new theory has emerged: a French prosecutor said on Thursday that the flight’s co-pilot brought the plane down on purpose.

Black box recordings suggest that when the pilot left the cockpit, the co-pilot locked the door and deliberately flew the plane into the mountain, not responding to the pilot’s pounding on the door or, in fact, saying a single word during the descent.

The shocking revelation may remind observers of another crash, when on Oct. 31, 1999, Egyptair Flight 990 went down on its way from New York City to Cairo. When the black box from that flight was retrieved, this, as per TIME’s recounting, was what was heard:

The cockpit door opens, then closes. Silence. After four or five minutes, a calm voice utters three words in Arabic. “Tawakalt ala Allah”: “I put my faith in God,” or “I entrust myself to God.”

It is 1:49 a.m. and 46 sec. on Oct. 31. EgyptAir Flight 990 is cruising uneventfully at 33,000 ft. on its normal heading from New York City northeast across the Atlantic toward Cairo. At that moment, two distinct clicks of a button on the control yoke disconnect the autopilot guiding the plane. Eight seconds later, the control yoke is pushed forward, tipping the tail up, pitching the nose down, and the aircraft tilts into a precipitous but controlled dive. Fourteen seconds later, the aircraft reaches 90% of the speed of sound and zero gravity–weightlessness–as it plummets through the night sky.

The cockpit door opens again. The master alarms start to whoop. A voice demands, “What’s going on?” or “What’s happening?” Then the same voice urges, “Pull with me! Pull with me!” Twenty-seven seconds into the dive, the horizontal elevators on the tail that normally operate in tandem to stabilize the aircraft wrench in opposite directions: the left side pulls to make the plane climb, the right one pushes to keep it in a dive. Gravity and the two powerful Pratt & Whitney engines on the Boeing 767 continue to force the plane down. A second later, a small shield is flicked up over the twin-engine control levers on the central console, and both engines switch off. Four seconds after that, the plane’s speed brakes, panels deployed atop the wings rise into the airstream, disrupting the lift in an effort to slow down the descent. Suddenly, the plane begins to climb.

After an additional 11 sec., the flight-data recorder and cockpit voice recorder stop working; the altitude-reporting transponder quits. Land radar tracks the plane as it climbs 8,000 ft. with a force of gravity 2 1/2 times normal. Then the aircraft stalls, lurches downward, breaks apart and leaves nothing on the radar screen but a cascade of neon debris falling into the sea.

Those bare clicks, murmurs and whines recorded by the plane’s two black boxes, then synchronized with ground-control radar tracks, are all the “facts” investigators have so far to construct a picture of what happened to Flight 990. But do they add up to the terrible possibility that one of the pilots deliberately sent the plane into its death dive, committing an unspeakable act of self-destruction and mass murder?

In that case, despite the recording and other evidence that the pilot did not try to avert the crash, the suicide-by-crash theory still, over 15 years later, remains unproven. The National Transportation Safety Board took the hypothesis seriously from the beginning but, TIME reported, those on the Egyptian side of the investigation denied that it was a possibility.

Responding to those who interpreted the pilot’s actions as a murderous, terroristic act, many in Egypt and its allies saw a cultural presumption in the idea that a prayer in Arabic — which could also be an expression of surprise or concern — could indicate a link to terrorism. And to those who saw it as an act of personal desperation, many Egyptians said that was also an insult, given the extreme shame associated with suicide in their culture.

The pilot’s family rushed to provide evidence that the pilot, Gamil El Batouty, was a happy man with no reason to crash a plane on purpose, and officials questioned whether his recorded prayer would be interpreted in such a sinister fashion if the speaker had been Christian. For months, even as the NTSB stuck by the suicide theory, Egypt continued to press the case for alternate possibilities.

Egyptair Flight 990 and Germanwings Flight 9525 are not exactly the same situation, but they do share a few key elements. In both cases, black box recordings suggest that the person flying the plane caused and/or failed to stop the descent, and in both cases the actual wreckage will be hard to retrieve, meaning that a full review of the plane’s mechanical systems may prove impossible. But in both cases, at least so far, there is also a lack of the kind of evidence that often speaks for suicides after the fact: no note, no explicit evidence of anguish.

The lesson of the Egyptair crash, then, is that the chance is high that Germanwings investigators will never be able to say for sure what happened. The only person who could answer their questions with confidence can no longer do so.

Read next: Why the Black Box Recordings Deepen Germanwings Crash Mystery

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME health

Why ‘Dr. Death’ Wanted to Be Charged with Murder

Euthanasia crusader Dr. Jack Kevorkian talks with
Jeff Kowalsky—AFP/Getty Images Dr. Jack Kevorkian talks with jury consultant Ruth Holmes (R) as Brad Feldman, one of his legal advisors, listens after Kevorkian's arraignment in Oakland County Circuit Court, Dec. 16, 1998

March 26, 1999: Dr. Jack Kevorkian is convicted of murder for administering a lethal injection to a terminally ill man

It was an unusual murder trial, given that the victim’s wife and relatives were the killer’s staunchest defenders. But the support of Thomas Youk’s family was not enough to keep Jack Kevorkian out of prison. On this day, March 26, in 1999, the pathologist and highly public euthanasia proponent, whom TIME had called “Dr. Death” in a 1993 cover story, was convicted of murder for giving Youk a lethal injection to end his suffering from advanced Lou Gehrig’s Disease.

Kevorkian was prepared to go to prison if it meant raising awareness of what he considered to be our nation’s backward, oppressive euthanasia laws. By the time of his trial, he had participated in more than 130 assisted suicides or, as in Youk’s case, mercy killings. For years he had dodged prosecution on the technicality that it wasn’t him who administered the fatal dose — it was always his terminally-ill patients, although he made the job easier for them.

Youk’s case was different. This time it was Kevorkian who injected the deadly drugs — while videotaping himself doing it. Then he gave the tape to the staff of the CBS news show “60 Minutes,” who broadcast it to a national audience.

On the tape, as CNN later reported, Kevorkian goaded prosecutors into coming after him so that the legality of assisted suicide and euthanasia could have a full airing in court — and in the news media. The law was not on his side, of course, and his decision to represent himself on the ensuing murder charges did not help him avoid prison. The jury found him guilty of second-degree murder, with a sentence of 10 to 25 years, rather than first-degree murder, which might have carried a life sentence.

Kevorkian was given early release in 2007, after serving only eight years, in part because he himself was then terminally ill with Hepatitis C. His sacrifice — or his flagrancy, depending on whom you ask — did succeed in bringing assisted suicide into the public spotlight, as he’d hoped. At the time of his death, Oregon, Washington and Montana had come to allow assisted suicide. Since then, Vermont and New Mexico have followed suit.

Part of what made Kevorkian such a prominent public figure was his zany personality, coupled with a dramatic flair that “brought a certain approachability to a grim subject,” as TIME wrote in Kevorkian’s 2011 obituary. He gave his two “suicide machines” names better suited to carnival rides or sinister sci-fi robots: Thanatron (which delivered lethal levels of narcotics) and Mercitron (which used carbon monoxide).

In 1993, a man dying from bone and lung cancer used Kevorkian’s carbon monoxide machine to kill himself. A friend of the deceased told TIME, “I know that when he put that mask on his face he had his finger sticking up in the air to say screw you all for the laws that made me suffer like this.”

It was, as TIME concluded then, “a gesture familiar to Dr. Kevorkian, who has made defiance of the law a passion second only to suicide.”

Read the 1993 cover story, here in the TIME Vault: Doctor Death

TIME Music

See Historic Photos of Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash in Nashville

A new exhibition looks at how Dylan changed the Tennessee city's music scene

Nashville has a reputation, and a well-earned one too: the Tennessee city is the home of country music.

But, as the Country Music Hall of Fame points out with a new exhibition opening Friday (Dylan, Cash, and the Nashville Cats: A New Music City, from which the artifacts and photographs above are drawn), that deserved reputation doesn’t mean that Nashville’s musical horizons are limited to one genre alone.

Rather, the fact that the city has long been home to accomplished session musicians — like the “Nashville Cats” of the 1960s and ’70s who are the focus of the exhibit — has attracted rock, folk and pop musicians to record there as well. And one of those not-totally-country musicians was particularly powerful in starting that trend: Bob Dylan, who came to the city to record Blonde on Blonde in 1966. Nashville’s conservative country rep was solid, but the results he achieved with local musicians — and his fruitful relationship with Nashville’s Johnny Cash — spoke for themselves.

“His decision to record here in the ’60s was a catalyst for many others to look at what must have seemed like an unusual destination at such a polarized time,” says the Hall of Fame’s Michael Gray. “If Dylan is doing it,” he says other musicians thought, “we should think about going there and checking out those musicians and studios too, in spite of its reputation as a conservative town.”

The dozens of rock and folk albums produced in Nashville during the ’60s and ’70s opened the door for the many artists who followed, a broadening that Gray says continues to this day; he cites Jack White and the Kings of Leon as examples of Dylan’s Nashville descendants. And that’s only part of the reason why Nashville has been proclaimed “the South’s Red-Hot Town” by TIME.

“Nashville is changing now,” Gray says. “The story we’re telling with this exhibit is that Dylan was changing perceptions of Nashville 50 years ago.”

TIME Military

The Desertion Charge for Bowe Bergdahl Was Months in the Making

TIME Photo-illustration. Bergdahl: U.S. Army/Getty Images The June 16, 2014, cover of TIME

Bergdahl's saga was TIME's cover story on June 16, 2014

Nearly a year after he was brought home through a prisoner exchange, Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl will be court-martialed, a military official revealed Wednesday. The charges will be “desertion and avoiding military service” as well as “misbehavior before the enemy.” An official U.S. military announcement will come later Wednesday.

Last summer, when Bergdahl first returned to the United States, the chance that he might face such charges was already clear. Throughout a time of heated debate over the resources and compromises that had been necessary to bring him home, the Army promised to investigate what had happened. “Depending on the details, the facts of the case might support a charge of desertion–one of the most serious crimes a soldier can commit,” TIME’s David von Drehle explained.

And the details were bedeviling. As the story continued:

Sometime after midnight on June 30, Bergdahl made a neat pile of his armor, along with a note of farewell, then disappeared. He left his firearm behind, preferring to carry only water, a knife, a camera and his compass. More than 24 hours later, U.S. intelligence intercepted Taliban radio calls indicating that they had captured an American soldier.

The next part of the story was recounted by angry soldiers in magazines, on television and in Facebook posts in the wake of Bergdahl’s release. (In some cases, their accounts were facilitated by Republican political operatives eager to turn up the heat on Obama.) Each version brought its own details, but a clear picture emerged of the Army in Afghanistan urgently redirected to the task of finding the runaway soldier.

Read the rest of the story here on TIME.com: No Soldier Left Behind

TIME LIFE Magazine

LIFE’s Best Covers From 1965

LIFE's covers from 1965 are a time capsule from a volatile year, from Los Angeles to Vietnam and Selma to Kashmir

Fifty years ago, President Johnson announced the dawning of a “Great Society,” peaceful protesters clashed with state troopers in Selma, The Sound of Music made movie history and Operation Rolling Thunder launched in North Vietnam—and all of that before the clocks sprang forward. The year would be defined by the war on poverty at home and the one in the tunnels below and the skies above Vietnam, by explorations on frontiers as near as the human body and as distant as outer space. And even when the threat of bodily harm loomed large, LIFE’s photographers were there to capture the moment in the vivid detail only images can convey.

TIME Civil Rights

How a Little-Known Government Agency Kept the Peace in Selma

Former Governor LeRoy Collins mediating during civil rights march - Selma, Alabama
State Archives of Florida Former Governor LeRoy Collins, walking between Andrew Young and Martin Luther King Jr., mediating during civil rights march, Alabama, 1965.

On the 50th anniversary of the Selma marchers’ arrival in Montgomery, a look back at the role of LeRoy Collins and the Community Relations Service

A photograph has the power to change minds and open them, reveal truths and distort them. It also has the power to lose elections, as this photograph of LeRoy Collins marching from Selma, Ala., to Montgomery with civil rights leaders demonstrated when Collins ran for U.S. Senate in 1968.

The real story, though, is not only in the consequences the photo engendered after it was taken, but also in the events that led Collins to the front of the march on that early spring day, sandwiched between Andrew Young and Martin Luther King Jr.

Two weeks before the photograph was made, the brutal events of “Bloody Sunday” had horrified almost anyone with access to a television or newspaper: King and many others had attempted a protest march from Selma to Montgomery, but they had been turned back with violence at the Edmund Pettus Bridge. President Johnson hoped to stave off the violence and media attention a second attempt at reaching the state capital would surely yield. But, despite a pending restraining order placed on the march by a federal judge, King planned to move forward. He was going to try again just a few days later, on March 9, 1965.

So Johnson dispatched Collins, a former Florida governor who had been appointed to direct the newly formed Community Relations Service (CRS), to keep an already escalating situation from erupting uncontrollably. CRS, which had been established under the 1964 Civil Rights Act as the peacemaking arm of the Department of Justice, was charged with mediating community conflicts rooted in race, religion and other human differences. The tensions in Selma fit squarely in the agency’s wheelhouse.

Collins, who had never met King before that day, attempted to broker a deal in which King would stop the march on the bridge and then turn around, in exchange for which Alabama State Trooper Colonel Al Lingo would agree not to use force. Both King and Lingo offered tepid agreement, and when the pivotal moment arrived, both men kept their word. King led a brief prayer and song and instructed surprised marchers to about-face, a move that caused the day to later be nicknamed “Turnaround Tuesday.”

The halt surprised the press as much as it did the marchers. According an account of the day’s events by Collins’ biographer, Martin Dyckman, the CRS’ arrival in Selma had gone unannounced, as the agency’s establishing law required it to operate without publicity.

Collins remained in Alabama to negotiate with city and state officials in Montgomery, as the date neared for a third attempt to complete the walk from Selma. That walk, which began March 21, was ultimately successful: King and his followers reached the state capital on March 25, 1965, a half-century ago today.

It was during the second day of marching that Collins reached the head of the line to discuss plans for the coming days with King, Young and other leaders. The photograph that captured their brief conference would appear on the front pages of newspapers across Florida the following day.

When Collins was nominated by the Democratic Party to fill a vacant U.S. Senate seat in 1968, the photograph reemerged, not as a demonstration of the CRS’ success in mediating the marches, but as a campaign tactic by Collins’ Republican opponent. Many Florida voters, not realizing his role as a mediator, perceived the photo as an image of Collins helping to lead the march. In a southern state that was far from progressive on civil-rights issues, this perception sounded the death knell for Collins’ chances in the election—and his career in politics.

But for Collins, the career he traded for peace in Selma—or at least as much peace as one agency could hope to achieve—was a worthy barter. His daughter Jane Aurell recently told the Miami Herald that Collins never regretted the work he did in Selma: “He would never have undone what he did.”

Read TIME’s 1955 cover story on LeRoy Collins’ Florida governorship, here in the TIME Vault: Florida: A Place in the Sun

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