On this day in 2017, Konstantinos Mitsotakis, the former Prime Minister of Greece, died at the age of 98. Born in the port of Chania on the southern Greek island of Crete on Oct. 18, 1918, Mitsotakis was the nephew of liberal statesman Eleftherios Venizelos and was first elected to Parliament as a member of his party in 1946. In 1977, Mitsotakis re-entered Parliament at the head of the small Neoliberal Party and, the following year, joined the governing New Democracy party, serving first as Finance Minister and later as Foreign Minister. He became the party’s leader in 1984 while the conservatives were in opposition. Mitsotakis narrowly won elections in 1990 after the Socialists became entangled in a financial scandal and polls in 1989 twice produced a hung Parliament. After his resignation as party leader, Mitsotakis often made public statements urging governments to take bolder steps in their market reforms, and he led an unsuccessful effort for Greece’s President to be elected directly by the people. Mitsotakis and his wife, Marika (who passed away in 2012), had four children: Dora, Katerina, Alexandra, and Kyriakos. He enjoyed good health until late in life and lived long enough to meet several great-grandchildren as well as to see his youngest child and only son, Kyriakos, elected as leader of New Democracy in January of 2016.
On this day in 2001, Antonio (Anthony) Quinn, the Mexican actor who played Zorba in Zorba the Greek (1964), died from complications of throat cancer at the age of 86. Quinn was born in 1915 in Chihuahua, Mexico – the son of freedom fighters in the Mexican Revolution – but his family moved to Los Angeles shortly after his birth. Throughout his life, Quinn had a variety of jobs including prizefighter, painter, musician, and preacher. By the time he was 80, Quinn had appeared in more than 150 films (and won two Academy Awards), but was universally identified with his role as Zorba. His full-of-life character, whom he inhabited so completely and comfortably that many of his later parts seemed also to be infused with that character’s spirit, also mirrored his off screen life (evidenced in part by the fact that his 13th child was born when he was in his 80s). Quinn’s other ‘Greek’ roles included playing Aristotle Onassis in The Greek Tycoon (1978), Zorba on Broadway (1980s), and the Greek god, Zeus, on the TV series Hercules: The Legendary Journeys (1990s).
On this day in 1929, Karolos Papoulias, the 6th President of Greece (2005-15), was born in Ioannina, Greece. He attended the Pogonian (Epirus) Elementary School and the High Schools of Pogoniani and Athens. During the Nazi occupation of Greece, he was among the first to join the armed resistance against the invading forces. He studied law at the Universities of Athens, Milan, and Cologne, where he submitted his PhD thesis on Private International Law. The 1967 military coup found him in Western Germany. He was among the founders of the Socialist Democratic Union which organized and mobilzed Greeks working and studying in Western Europe against the colonels’ junta. Papoulias was also a founding member of the Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK). Since December 1974, he was continually elected to the party’s Central Committee and held several other high offices during the PASOK cabinets. In December of 2004, then Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis, leader of the governing New Democracy Party, and George Papandreou, leader of the PASOK opposition, nominated Papoulias for the presidency, which is ultimately chosen by the Parliament. On February 8, 2005, Papoulias was elected by 279 of 300 votes to his first of two five-year terms as President of the Hellenic Republic.