|Max Baer Sr.|
Baer c. 1935
|Real name||Maximilian Adelbert Baer|
|Height||6 ft 2 1⁄2 in (1.89 m)|
|Reach||81 in (206 cm)|
|Born||February 11, 1909|
Omaha, Nebraska, U.S.
|Died||November 21, 1959 50) (aged|
Hollywood, California, U.S.
|Wins by KO||59|
Maximilian Adelbert Baer (February 11, 1909 – November 21, 1959) was an American boxer who was the World Heavyweight Champion from 14 June 1934 to 13 June 1935. His fights were twice (1933 win over Max Schmeling, 1935 loss to James J. Braddock) rated Fight of the Year by The Ring Magazine . Baer was also a boxing referee, and had an occasional role on film or television. He was the brother of heavyweight boxing contender Buddy Baer and father of actor Max Baer Jr.. Baer is rated #22 on Ring Magazine's list of 100 greatest punchers of all time.
Baer was born on February 11, 1909, in Omaha, Nebraskato Jacob Baer (1875–1938), who was half Lutheran German and half German Jewish, and Dora Bales (1877–1938), who was of Scots-Irish Protestant American ancestry. Baer was raised in a nominally nonsectarian home. His elder sister was Frances May Baer (1905–1991), his younger sister was Bernice Jeanette Baer (1911–1987), his younger brother was boxer-turned-actor Jacob Henry Baer, better known as Buddy Baer (1915–1986), and his adopted brother was August "Augie" Baer.
In May 1922, tired of the Durango, Colorado, winters, which aggravated Frances's rheumatic fever and Jacob's high blood pressure,the Baers drove to the milder climes of the West Coast, where Dora's sister lived in Alameda, California. Jacob's expertise in the butcher business led to numerous job offers around the San Francisco Bay Area. While living in Hayward, Max took his first job as a delivery boy for John Lee Wilbur. Wilbur ran a grocery store and bought meat from Jacob.
The Baers lived in the Northern Californian towns of Hayward, San Leandro and Galtbefore moving to Livermore in 1926. Livermore was cowboy country, surrounded by tens of thousands of acres of rangeland which supported large cattle herds that provided fresh meat to the local area. In 1928, Jacob leased the Twin Oaks Ranch in Murray Township, where he raised more than 2,000 hogs and worked with daughter Frances's husband, Louis Santucci. Baer often credited working as a butcher boy, carrying heavy carcasses of meat, stunning cattle with one blow, and working at a gravel pit, for developing his powerful shoulders (an article in the January 1939 edition of The Family Circle Magazine reported that Baer also took the Charles Atlas exercise course.)
Baer turned professional in 1929, progressing steadily through the Pacific Coast ranks. A ring tragedy little more than a year later almost caused Baer to drop out of boxing for good.
Baer fought Frankie Campbell on August 25, 1930, in San Francisco in a ring built over home plate at San Francisco's Recreation Park for the unofficial title of Pacific Coast champion. In the second round, Campbell clipped Baer and Baer slipped to the canvas. Campbell went toward his corner and waved to the crowd. He thought Baer was getting the count. Baer got up and flew at Campbell, landing a right to Campbell's turned head which sent him to the canvas.
After the round, Campbell said to his trainer, "Something feels like it snapped in my head", but went on to handily win rounds 3 and 4. As Baer rose for the 5th round, Tillie "Kid" Herman, Baer's former friend and trainer, who had switched camps overnight and was now in Campbell's corner, savagely taunted and jeered Baer. In a rage and determined to end the bout with a knockout, Baer soon had Campbell against the ropes. As he hammered him with punch after punch, the ropes were the only thing holding Campbell up. By the time referee Toby Irwin stopped the fight, Campbell collapsed to the canvas. Baer's own seconds reportedly ministered to Campbell, and Baer stayed by his side until an ambulance arrived 30 minutes later. Baer "visited the stricken fighter's bedside", where he offered Frankie's wife Ellie the hand that hit her husband. She took that hand and the two stood speechless for a moment. "It was unfortunate, I'm awfully sorry", said Baer. "It even might have been you, mightn't it?" she replied.
At noon the next day, with a lit candle laced between his crossed fingers, and his wife and mother beside him, Frankie Campbell was pronounced dead. Upon the surgeon's announcement of Campbell's death, Baer broke down and sobbed inconsolably. Brain specialist Dr. Tilton E. Tillman "declared death had been caused by a succession of blows on the jaw and not by any struck on the rear of the head", and that Campbell's brain had been "knocked completely loose from his skull" by Baer's blows.
The Campbell incident earned Baer the reputation as a "killer" in the ring. This publicity was further sensationalized by Baer's return bout with Ernie Schaaf, on August 31, 1932. Schaaf had bested Baer in a decision during Max's Eastern debut bout at Madison Square Garden on September 19, 1930.
An Associated Press article in the September 9, 1932 Sports section of the New York Times describes the end of the return bout as follows:
Two seconds before the fight ended Schaaf was knocked flat on his face, completely knocked out. He was dragged to his corner and his seconds worked over for him for three minutes before restoring him to his senses... Baer smashed a heavy right to the jaw that shook Schaaf to his heels, to start the last round, then walked into the Boston fighter, throwing both hands to the head and body. Baer drove three hard rights to the jaw that staggered Schaaf. Baer beat Schaaf around the ring and into the ropes with a savage attack to the head and body. Just before the round ended Baer dropped Schaaf to the canvas, but the bell sounded as Schaaf hit the floor.
Schaaf complained frequently of headaches after that bout. Five months after the Baer fight, on February 11, 1933, Schaaf died in the ring after taking a left jab from the Italian fighter Primo Carnera. The majority of sports editors noted,however, that an autopsy later revealed Schaaf had meningitis, a swelling of the brain, and was still recovering from a severe case of influenza when he touched gloves with Carnera. Schaaf's obituary stated that "just before his bout with Carnera, Schaaf went into reclusion in a religious retreat near Boston to recuperate from an attack of influenza" which produced the meningitis. The death of Campbell and accusations over Schaaf's demise profoundly affected Baer, even though he was ostensibly indestructible and remained a devastating force in the ring. According to his son, actor/director Max Baer Jr. (who was born seven years after the incident):
My father cried about what happened to Frankie Campbell. He had nightmares. In reality, my father was one of the kindest, gentlest men you would ever hope to meet. He treated boxing the way today's professional wrestlers do wrestling: part sport, mostly showmanship. He never deliberately hurt anyone.
In the case of Campbell, Baer was charged with manslaughter. Baer was eventually acquitted of all charges, but the California State Boxing Commission still banned him from any in-ring activity within the state for the next year. Baer gave purses from succeeding bouts to Campbell's family, but lost four of his next six fights. He fared better when Jack Dempsey took him under his wing. [ citation needed ]
former world heavyweight champion
On June 8, 1933, Baer fought and defeated (by a technical knockout) German heavyweight and former world champion, Max Schmeling, at Yankee Stadium. Schmeling was favored to win, and was Adolf Hitler's favorite fighter. The Nazi tabloid Der Stürmer publicly attacked Schmeling for fighting a non-Aryan, as Baer's father was half Jewish, calling it a "racial and cultural disgrace."
Hitler summoned Schmeling for a private meeting in April, where he told Schmeling to contact him for help if he had any problems in the U.S., and requested that during any press interviews, he should tell the American public that news reports about Jewish persecution in Germany were untrue. However, a few days after that meeting, Hitler put a national ban on boxing by Jews along with a boycott of all Jewish businesses. When Schmeling arrived in New York, he did as Hitler requested, and denied problems of anti-Semitism existed, adding that many of his neighbors were Jews, as was his manager.
Although the Great Depression, then in full force, had lowered the income of most citizens, sixty thousand people attended the fight.NBC radio updated millions nationwide as the match progressed. Baer, who was one-quarter Jewish, wore trunks which displayed the Star of David, a symbol he wore in all his future bouts. When the fight began, he dominated the rugged Schmeling into the tenth round, when Baer knocked him down and the referee stopped the match. Columnist Westbrook Pegler wrote about Schmeling's loss, "That wasn't a defeat, that was a disaster", while journalist David Margolick claimed that Baer's win would come to "symbolize Jewry's struggle against the Nazis."
Baer became a hero among Jews, those who identified with Jews, and those who despised the Nazis.According to biographer David Bret, after the war ended, it was learned that Schmeling had in fact saved the lives of many Jewish children during the war while still serving his country.
Swedish film star Greta Garbo considered Baer's defeat of Schmeling to be a "mini-victory" over German fascism, and she invited him to visit her while she was filming Queen Christina in Hollywood.His being allowed on the set was considered a "sacrilege" in Hollywood, however. Even MGM studio's head, Louis B. Mayer, wasn't allowed on her set since she demanded total privacy while acting. Their friendship led to a romance, which lasted until he returned to New York to train for his next fight, this one against Primo Carnera.
On June 14, 1934 at the outdoor Madison Square Garden Bowl at Long Island, NY, Baer defeated the huge reigning world champion Primo Carnera of Italy who weighed in at 267 pounds. Baer knocked down the champion 11 times before the fight was stopped in the eleventh round by referee Arthur Donovan to save Carnera from further punishment. All the knockdowns occurred in rounds one, two, ten and eleven in which Baer thoroughly dominated. The intervening rounds were competitive. There is some dispute about the number of knockdowns scored as Carnera slipped to the canvas on several occasions and was wrestled to the canvas on other times. Despite this dominant performance over Carnera, Baer would hold the world heavyweight title for just 364 days.
On June 13, 1935, one of the greatest upsets in boxing history transpired in Long Island City, New York, as Baer fought down-and-out boxer James J. Braddock in the so-called Cinderella Man bout. Baer hardly trained for the bout. Braddock, on the other hand, was training hard. "I'm training for a fight, not a boxing contest or a clownin' contest or a dance", he said. "Whether it goes one round or three rounds or ten rounds, it will be a fight and a fight all the way. When you've been through what I've had to face in the last two years, a Max Baer or a Bengal tiger looks like a house pet. He might come at me with a cannon and a blackjack and he would still be a picnic compared to what I've had to face." Baer, ever the showman, "brought gales of laughter from the crowd with his antics" the night he stepped between the ropes to meet Braddock. As Braddock "slipped the blue bathrobe from his pink back, he was the sentimental favorite of a Bowl crowd of 30,000, most of whom had bet their money 8-to-1 against him." [ citation needed ]
Max "undoubtedly paid the penalty for underestimating his challenger beforehand and wasting too much time clowning." At the end of 15 rounds Braddock emerged the victor in a unanimous decision, outpointing Baer 8 rounds to 6 in the "most astounding upset since John L. Sullivan went down before the thrusts of Gentleman Jim Corbett back in the nineties." Braddock took heavy hits from Baer, but kept coming at Baer until he wore Max down. [ citation needed ]
Baer and his brother Buddy both lost fights to Joe Louis. In the second round of Max's September 1935 match, Joe knocked Baer down to one knee, the first time he had ever been knocked to the canvas in his career. A sizzling left hook in the fourth round brought Max to his knee again, and the referee called the bout soon after.It was learned weeks later that Baer fought Louis with a broken right hand that never healed from his fight with James J. Braddock. Max was virtually helpless without his big right hand in the Louis fight. In the first televised heavyweight prizefight, Baer lost to Lou Nova on June 1, 1939, on WNBT-TV in New York.
Baer was awarded a belt declaring him the "White Heavyweight Champion of the World" after he scored a first round T.K.O. over Pat Cominsky in a bout at Roosevelt Stadium in Jersey City, New Jersey on 26 September 1940, but it was a publicity stunt. The fight was not promoted as being for the white heavyweight championship, and Cominsky would not have won the belt had he beaten Baer.
The belt was a publicity stunt dreamed up by boxing promoters who were trying to pressure promoter Mike Jacobs into giving the ex-world heavyweight champion a rematch with current champ Joe Louis. Jacobs did not give Baer another bout with Louis.Baer retired after his next fight, on 4 April 1941, when he lost to Lou Nova on a T.K.O. in the eighth round of scheduled 10-rounder at Madison Square Garden. Nova did get a shot at Joe Louis, losing to the champion by T.K.O. in the sixth round of a scheduled fifteen round bout held at the Polo Grounds in New York.
Max Baer boxed in 84 professional fights from 1929 to 1941. In all, his record was 71–13. 53 of those wins were knockouts, making him a member of the exclusive group of boxers to have won 50 or more bouts by knockout. Baer defeated the likes of Ernie Schaaf, Walter Cobb, Kingfish Levinsky, Max Schmeling, Tony Galento, Ben Foord and Tommy Farr. He was Heavyweight Champion of the World from June 14, 1934 to June 13, 1935.
Baer was a 1968 inductee to into The Ring magazine's Boxing Hall of Fame (disbanded in 1987), and was inducted to the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1995. He was inducted to the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame in 2009. The 1998 Holiday Issue of Ring ranked Baer #20 in "The 50 Greatest Heavyweights of All Time". In Ring Magazine's 100 Greatest Punchers (published in 2003), Baer is ranked number 22.
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Baer's motion picture debut was in The Prizefighter and the Lady (1933) opposite Myrna Loy and Walter Huston. In this MGM movie he played Steven "Steve" Morgan, a bartender that the Professor, played by Huston, begins training for the ring. Steve wins a fight, then marries Belle Mercer, played by Loy. He starts seriously training, but it turns out he has a huge ego and an eye for women. Featured were Baer's upcoming opponent, Primo Carnera, as himself, whom Steve challenges for the championship, and Jack Dempsey, as himself, former heavyweight champion, acting as the referee.
On March 29, 1934, The Prizefighter and the Lady was officially banned in Germany at the behest of Joseph Goebbels, Adolf Hitler's Minister of Propaganda and Public Entertainment, even though it received favorable reviews in local newspapers as well as in Nazi publications. When contacted for comment at Lake Tahoe, Baer said, "They didn't ban the picture because I have Jewish blood. They banned it because I knocked out Max Schmeling." Baer enlisted, as did his brother Buddy, in the United States Army when World War II began.
Baer acted in almost 20 movies, including Africa Screams (1949) with Abbott and Costello, and made several television guest appearances. A clown in and out of the ring, Baer also appeared in a vaudeville act and on his own TV variety show. Baer appeared in Humphrey Bogart's final movie, The Harder They Fall (1956), opposite Mike Lane as Toro Moreno, a Hollywood version of Primo Carnera, whom Baer defeated for his heavyweight title. Budd Schulberg, who wrote the book from which the movie was made, portrayed the Baer character, "Buddy Brannen", as blood thirsty, and the unfounded characterization was reprised in the movie Cinderella Man .
In 1951, Baer teamed up with another title holder; friend and Light Heavyweight champion (1929-'34) and boxer-turned actor/comedian, Maxie Rosenbloom. Together, the two starred in SkipAlong Rosenbloom (written by Rosenbloom-uncredited). They embarked on a comedy tour, billed as on YouTube. Baer would also take the stage at Rosenbloom's comedy club on Wilshire Blvd, Slapsy Maxie's, which was featured in the film Gangster Squad. Baer and Rosenbloom remained friends until Baer's death in 1959.
Baer additionally worked as a disc jockey for a Sacramento radio station, and for a while he was a wrestler. He served as public relations director for a Sacramento automobile dealership and referee for boxing and wrestling matches.
Baer married twice, to actress Dorothy Dunbar (married July 8, 1931-divorced October 6, 1933), and to Mary Ellen Sullivan (1903–1978) (married June 29, 1935-his death 1959), the mother of his 3 children: actor Max Baer Jr. (born 1937), James Manny Baer (1941-2009), and Maudie Marian Baer (born 1944).
Baer never got to see his son perform as an actor on television. Baer Jr. played Jethro Bodine in the television series The Beverly Hillbillies and appeared on several other shows.
At the time of his death on November 21, 1959, Baer was scheduled to appear in some TV commercials in Los Angeles before returning to his home in Sacramento.
On Wednesday, November 18, 1959, Baer refereed a nationally televised 10-round boxing match in Phoenix. At the end of the match, to the applause of the crowd, Baer grasped the ropes and vaulted out of the ring and joined fight fans in a cocktail bar. The next day, he was scheduled to appear in several television commercials in Hollywood, California. On his way, he stopped in Garden Grove, California, to keep a promise he had made thirteen years earlier to the then five-year-old son of his ex-sparring partner, Curly Owens. Baer presented the now 18-year-old with a foreign sports car on his birthday, as he had said he would.
Baer checked into the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel upon his arrival on November 19. Hotel employees said he looked fit but complained of a cold. As he was shaving, the morning of November 21, he experienced chest pains. He called the front desk and asked for a doctor. The desk clerk said "a house doctor would be right up." "A house doctor?" he replied jokingly, "No, dummy, I need a people doctor".
A doctor gave Baer medicine, and a fire department rescue squad administered oxygen. His chest pains subsided and he was showing signs of recovery when he was stricken with a second heart attack. Just a moment before, he was joking with the doctor, declaring he had come through two similar but lighter attacks earlier in Sacramento, California. Then he slumped on his left side, turned blue and died within a matter of minutes. His last words reportedly were, "Oh God, here I go."
Baer's funeral was one of the largest ever attended in Sacramento, where he had made his home for almost 30 years. A crowd of more than 1,500 – many with scarred eyebrows and smashed noses – bade farewell. Among his mourners were four former world champions, politicians, people in wheelchairs and Cub Scouts. There were 'men of wealth and distinction' – and bums shuffling off skid row. There were women in mink stoles and diamonds – and women in cotton house dresses, and in slacks. There were babies in the arms of their young mothers – and elderly couples, helping each other's halting steps. Hundreds of others, unable to get into the funeral home, crowded around the outside. Some chose vantage points on car roofs and nearby scaffolding. Joe Louis and Jack Dempsey were among his pallbearers. There were tears in the eyes of 'Curly' Owens, his one-time sparring partner, as he took down Max's gloves from a big white floral arrangement. The cemetery service was concluded by an American Legion honor guard, recognizing Baer's service in World War II. Baer's obituary made the front page of The New York Times . He was laid to rest in a garden crypt in St. Mary's Catholic Cemetery in Sacramento.Bowing to his beloved wife's wishes, Max was buried by her faith, Roman Catholicism.
There is a park named for Max Baer in Livermore, California even though he was born in Omaha. There is also a park in Sacramento named after him. He was honored by the Bay Area Sports Hall of Fame in 1988.
Baer was an active member of the Fraternal Order of Eagles. When Max died of a heart attack in 1959, the Eagles created a charity fund as a tribute to his memory and as a means of combating the disease that killed him. The Max Baer Heart Fund is primarily to aid in heart research and education. Since the fund started in 1959, millions of dollars have been donated to universities, medical centers and hospitals across the United States and Canada for heart research and education.
In Grant County, West Virginia, there is a road that is named "Max Baer Road", however, according to Thomas "Duke" Miller, a TV/movie/celebrity expert who resides in that state, there is no reference anywhere that the Baer family ever had any ties with West Virginia.
Alluded to in:
|68 Wins (52 knockouts, 16 decisions), 13 Losses (3 knockouts, 10 decisions), 0 Draws|
|Loss||68–13||TKO||8 (10)||1941-04-04||Nova was knocked down in the 4th round. Baer was knocked down twice in the 8th. Referee Donovan stopped the bout as the count was at two.|
|Win||67–12||TKO||8 (15)||1940-07-02||Galento was unable to answer the bell for the 8th round.|
|Win||66–12||KO||2 (10)||1939-09-18||Ritchie was knocked down twice.|
|Loss||64–12||TKO||11 (12)||1939-06-01||Attendance: 16,778. Fight stopped by the referee because of severe laceration of Baer's lower lip.|
|Win||63–11||UD||12||1938-03-11||Farr was knocked down in the 2nd and 3rd.|
|Win||61–10||KO||2 (10)||1936-10-19||A light slap to Weimer's ribs ended the bout, causing the crowd to roar its disgust. Someone threw an empty whiskey bottle at Baer. Leaving the ring, he turned to the crowd and shouted, "Well, you paid to get in – suckers."|
|Loss||60–10||PTS||6||1936-10-08||The fight was billed as an exhibition, yet Referee Ted Jamieson gave an official decision. Baer floored Davies in the 2nd round.|
|Win||60–9||KO||4 (6)||1936-10-06||Charles downed eight times.|
|Win||59–9||NWS||6||1936-09-14||Newspaper decision from the Oelwein Daily Register (U.P. wire).|
|Win||55–9||Don Baxter||KO||1 (6)||1936-08-31|
|Win||54–9||Al Frankco||KO||2 (6)||1936-08-29|
|Win||49–9||KO||5 (6)||1936-07-16||Munsell down in the 1st round. Munsell reportedly 22-0 entering contest. Source: Tulsa World .|
|Win||46–9||TKO||3 (6)||1936-06-24||Dunn announced at 183, was weighed after the fight and was actually 168. San Antonio Light .|
|Win||45–9||TKO||4 (6)||1936-06-23||Brown was floored 3 times in the 4th round before his manager tossed in the towel.|
|Win||44–9||PTS||6||1936-06-19||Murphy was floored in the 3rd, 4th & 5th rounds.|
|Win||42–9||PTS||6||1936-06-15||Souza was floored 4 times in the bout.|
|Loss||41–9||KO||4 (15)||1935-09-24||Attendance: 88,150. Jack Dempsey was in Baer's corner. Baer was knocked down twice in the 3rd round.1935 Fight of the Year by The Ring Magazine.|
|Loss||41–8||UD||15||1935-06-13||Lost NYSAC, NBA & World Heavyweight titles. Baer feinted a knockdown in the 8th round.|
|Win||41–7||KO||2 (4)||1934-12-28||This was scheduled as an exhibition, no decision to be given at the end of four rounds. But Levinsky came out swinging and Baer became extremely angry. In round 2 Baer rushed to meet Levinsky and in less than a minute had pounded him to the canvas dead to the world.|
|Win||40–7||TKO||11 (15)||1934-06-14||Won NYSAC, NBA & World Heavyweight titles. Baer floored Carnera 11 times, and had him wobbly on his legs, before Referee Donovan stopped the bout to protect Carnera from further punishment.|
|Win||39–7||TKO||10 (15)||1933-06-08||1933 Fight of the Year by The Ring Magazine.|
|Win||37–7||MD||10||1932-08-31||"The bell deprived Baer of a knock-out victory. Two seconds before the fight ended Schaaf was knocked flat on his face, completely knocked out. He was dragged to his corner and his seconds worked on him for three minutes restoring him to his senses." (Associated Press).|
|Win||36–7||PTS||20||1932-07-04||Attendance: 8,000 "Baer piled up a big lead throughout the fight." (AP).|
|Win||26–5||KO||2 (10)||1931-04-07||Owens was down at the end of the 1st round from a right hand. After two more knockdowns in the 2nd, referee Tom Louttit raised Baer's hand.|
|Win||25–4||KO||3 (10)||1931-01-16||Referee Jack Dempsey picked up the count incorrectly. Knockdown time-keeper Arthur Donovan signaled Heeney out at Dempsey's count of 8. Heeney was waiting to hear "9" before arising. When he learned he had been counted out, he "protested strenuously", and the crowd "broke into a deafening roar of disapproval." New York Times .|
|Loss||24–4||UD||10||1930-12-19||Schaaf "battered the Coast invader as thoroughly as ever a boxer has been pounded, to win a decision in as exciting a heavyweight encounter as has been seen here for some time". (James P. Douglas, New York Times ).|
|Win||24–3||TKO||5 (10)||1930-08-25||Onlookers claimed that Baer slugged Campbell after he was already unconscious but had held onto his feet by the ropes. Doctors worked over Campbell for half an hour and, failing to revive him, took him to a local hospital where other physicians and nurses worked over him for several hours. Campbell died from a severe concussion of the brain. CSAC soon suspended Referee for his failure to stop the fight.|
|Win||23–3||KO||2 (10)||1930-08-11||Baer sent Christner to the floor three times in the 2nd stanza.|
|Win||20–2||KO||1 (10)||1930-05-28||Linkhorn down 3 times.|
|Win||18–2||PTS||10||1930-04-22||Owens knocked down for first time in career.|
|Loss||15–2||DQ||3 (10)||1930-01-15||Baer was disqualified for hitting Abbott while he was being given a count; fined $100 for fouls.|
|Win||8–1||KO||3 (6)||1929-09-25||"Frank succumbed to a vicious left hook after being knocked half out of the ring with a right." (Hayward Review).|
|Win||2–0||Sailor Leeds||KO||1 (4)||1929-06-06|
"My father is Jewish and my mother is Scotch-Irish" said Baer.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Max Baer .|
| World Heavyweight Champion |
June 14, 1934 – June 13, 1935
James J. Braddock
| Youngest Dying Heavyweight Champion |
November 21, 1959 – August 31, 1969