On this day in 1943, the first trainees of what would become the Women's Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs) arrived at Sweetwater Army Airfield (better known as Avenger Field). Organized the previous year as the Womens Flying Training Detachment and the Womens Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron, the organizations were consolidated as the WASPs in August 1943. Under the direction of famed aviatrix Jacqueline Cochran, experienced women pilots in civil-service status were trained to fly army planes to relieve men for World War II combat duty. For a brief period, Avenger Field trained both men and women, but in April 1943 it became the "only all-female air base in history," except for the male instructors and support crews. Fourteen classes, totaling 1,074 pilots, earned their wings in every type of army plane before the WASPs were disbanded on December 20, 1944.The WASPs flew sixty million miles for the AAF and received high praises from their commanders; thirty-eight pilots died in service.
On this day in 1902, Dalhart became the county seat of Dallam County. The name is a combination of the names Dallam and Hartley. The original settlement began where the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad crossed the tracks of the Fort Worth and Denver line, on the boundary between Dallam and Hartley counties. It was first known as Twist Junction. Subsequently, it adopted its first portmanteau name, Denrock, derived from the names of the two railroads. When the ever-unpredictable postal authorities objected, the name was changed to Dalhart.
On this day in 1896, colorful lawman Roy Bean staged a heavyweight championship fight on a sandbar just below Langtry, on the Mexican side of the Rio Grande. Bean, known as the "Law West of the Pecos," was appointed justice of the peace for Pecos County in 1882. He settled at Eagle's Nest Springs, which acquired a post office and a new name, Langtry, in honor of the English actress Lillie Langtry, whom Bean greatly admired. Bean soon became known as an eccentric and original interpreter of the law. When a man killed a Chinese laborer, for example, Bean ruled that his law book did not make it illegal to kill a Chinese. And when a man carrying forty dollars and a pistol fell off a bridge, Bean fined the corpse forty dollars for carrying a concealed weapon, thereby providing funeral expenses. He intimidated and cheated people, but he never hanged anybody. He reached his peak of notoriety with his staging of the match between Peter Maher of Ireland and Bob Fitzsimmons of Australia. The fight was opposed by civic and religious leaders such as Baptist missionary Leander Millican, and both the Mexican and the U.S. governments had prohibited it. Bean arranged to hold it on the Mexican side of the Rio Grande, knowing the Mexican authorities could not conveniently reach the site, and that Woodford H. Mabry's Texas Rangers would have no jurisdiction. The spectators arrived aboard a chartered train; after a profitable delay contrived by Bean, the crowd witnessed Fitzsimmons's defeat of Maher in less than two minutes. Among the spectators was another somewhat disreputable lawman and boxing promoter, Bartholomew "Bat" Masterson.