little-known secrets behind the men & women who shaped
Isn't Always the Way You Remember It
By Paul Niemann
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[January 15, 2008]
He was a general, born hundreds of years ago.
His first name was so unique that he probably didn't even need to
tell people his last name. Or his middle name, for that matter, as
it is known throughout the whole world. Yet he was as American as
baseball and your mom's apple pie.
He led his troops in a
well-known war that you learned about in history class.
Napoleon Bonaparte. And he wasn't really exiled to the island of
Elba. He wasn't married to a woman named Josephine, either.
He had something in common with George Washington and Thomas
Jefferson, but it had nothing to do with being the leader of his
You probably didn't know that George Washington was an
agricultural chemist long before he was so well-known. In fact, he
created many new products from plants. He is responsible for axle
grease, meat tenderizer and talcum powder, among many other
products. He also was the director of ag research at Tuskegee
University at age 36.
Like Napoleon and Washington, there are several things that you
might not have known about Thomas Jefferson.
He had a daughter who went on to become a first lady, married to
a United States president. You didn't learn that in history class,
Before you think that I'm trying to rewrite history, let me clear
things up a bit.
[to top of second column]
The George Washington who created new products from plants and
led the ag research department at Tuskegee University in Alabama was
George Washington Carver, the well-known "plant doctor."
The Thomas Jefferson whose daughter went on to become a first
lady was Thomas Jefferson Taylor. The descendent was actually his
daughter, Claudia "Lady Bird" Taylor, who married Lyndon Baines
And it wasn't that Napoleon Bonaparte who was mentioned at
the beginning of this story, but rather Napoleon Bonaparte Buford.
He was born in 1801 in Kentucky, and the well-known war that you
learned about in history class was the Civil War. Buford was a
general in the Union army, yet he remains unknown throughout
So what exactly did Napoleon Bonaparte Buford do to earn a spot
in this column?
It was his first and middle name that did it for me.
Paul Niemann may be reached at
Copyright Paul Niemann 2008