5 of the Most Overlooked People in American History (and why no one gives a shit about them)
Sometimes the stars align ever so perfectly and a person is plucked out of obscurity and turned into a sensation, and other times…nothing happens. Nothing at all. Here are 5 of those unlucky, unsung heroes who are finally receiving some much-deserved credit (even though it’s way too late for them to enjoy it):
- Frank Wills: The Watergate Whistleblower
Back in 1972, a security guard named Frank Wills foiled the famous Watergate burglary after noticing during one of his routine inspections that the lock on the basement door had been taped over, preventing it from latching. Wills removed the tape, but discovered later that it was securely back in place over the lock, at which point Wills alerted the authorities.
Why no one gives a shit: At the time, Wills actually did become quite the sensation and even appeared on several talk shows, unfortunately, fame is fleeting. Over time, even the residual fame began to dissipate, and Wills struggled to find work. After being convicted of shoplifting in 1983, Wills sank back into obscurity, forgotten by the world.
2. Elizabeth Jennings Graham: The OG of the Civil Rights Movement
We’ve all heard of Rosa Parks and her heroic determination to remain seated, to not be treated like a lesser member of society. However, no one (unless you’re super into obscure trivia facts) seems to know about Elizabeth Jennings Graham, even though she called out the public transportation system for their racist policies a hundred years before Rosa Parks began fighting the good fight.
Back in 1854, Graham and a friend were forcibly removed from a streetcar due to complaints from intolerant white passengers. Outraged, Graham began to fight the system by sharing her story with any news outlet that would listen, which eventually led to the desegregation of the transit system in New York.
Why no one gives a shit: Unfortunately Graham’s story was just kind of lost to history. Without the aid of television to broadcast her story, she became a silent hero for Civil Rights.
3. Philo Farnsworth: The man (hero) who made binge-watching possible
Even from an early age, Farnsworth had a knack for inventing. As an adolescent, he would convert the appliances in his family home to electric power, and even created a tamper-proof lock. So, it was probably no surprise to those who knew him when he unveiled his prototype for the first ever, all-electric television in 1938. Unfortunately for Farnsworth, thanks to a competing investor, the Radio Corporation of America (RCA) already owned a patent for the television. Farnsworth fought RCA, defending himself from claims of infringement and attempting to protect his own patent rights. RCA eventually paid Farnsworth a one million dollar fee to get him out of their hair.
Why no one gives a shit: After receiving the payment from RCA, Farnsworth moved to Utah to run a lab at Brigham Young University but, due to funding issues, he was unable to continue his research. Farnworth, already suffering from depression, turned to the bottle and stayed there until his death in 1971.
4. William Henry Harrison: The dude that was our 9th president for a hot minute. You knew that, right?
Back in 1841, at the ripe old age of 67, William Henry Harrison became the ninth president of the United States.
Why no one gives a shit: Harrison only served as president for one month before dying of pneumonia, so it’s pretty easy to just kinda skip over him.
5. Percy Julian: The man that all sneaky, underhanded athletes should praise.
After obtaining his Ph.D. at the University of Vienna in Austria — because Harvard University wouldn’t allow him to pursue his doctorate at their institution — Julian eventually obtained a position as a lab director with Glidden Company. It was during his time at Glidden that he invented Aero-Foam, a product used during the second World War to put out gas and oil fires, and laid the foundation for the production of steroids.
Why no one gives a shit: Racism, of course. And also the fact that his personal letters were released (also due to racism), which destroyed his reputation.