This Week in History
by Dianne Hermann
“History is a vast early warning system.” Norman Cousins
Mar 20-26, 2023
1816 – The U.S. Supreme Court affirms its right to review state court decisions in Martin v Hunter’s lessee involving a land dispute.
1897 – In the first recorded intercollegiate basketball game, Yale beats the University of Pennsylvania 32-10.
1922 – USS Langley is commissioned as the Navy’s first aircraft carrier. It went through several conversions and in 1942 she was attacked by Japanese bombers. It was badly damaged during the attack and scuttled off the coast of Indonesia.
1952 – The U.S. Senate ratifies the peace treaty with Japan. The treaty went into effect in April of 1952.
1976 – Patricia Hearst is convicted of the armed robbery she committed while being held captive after being held captive by the SLA. Hearst is now 68 years old. Watch the actual bank footage of the robbery.
1984 – The U.S. Senate rejects an amendment to permit spoken prayer in public schools.
1985 – American Libby Riddles is the first woman to win the Iditarod Trail Dog Sled Race. Riddles is now 66 years old. Watch an ABC report after her win.
1991 The Supreme Court rules unanimously that employers can’t exclude women from jobs where exposure to toxic chemicals could potentially damage a fetus.
1999 – Legoland California, the first and only Legoland outside of Europe, opens in Carlsbad, California.
2012 – The Disney movie “John Carter” records the largest loss in cinema history with a $200 million dollar write down.
1843 – Preacher William Miller of Massachusetts predicts the world will end on this day. He was an early pioneer of the Seventh Day Adventist movement.
1891 – A member of the Hatfield family marries a McCoy, ending the long and bloody feud in West Virginia that started with an accusation of pig stealing and lasted over 20 years. Descendants of the Hatfield and McCoy families appeared on the TV game show Family Feud in 1979.
1934 – Female track and field Olympian and future golf legend Babe Didrikson pitches an inning in an A’s-Dodgers exhibition game. The Associated Press declared Mildred “Babe” Didrikson Zaharias to be the “Woman Athlete of the Half Century” in 1950. Zaharias died in 1956 at the age of 45. Watch a video bio of her amazing athletic life.
1947 – President Truman signs Executive Order 9835 requiring all federal employees to have allegiance to the U.S.
1965 – Martin Luther King, Jr. begins the march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, a distance of about 50 miles. They arrived on March 25th.
1980 – President Jimmy Carter announces the U.S. will boycott the Moscow Olympics to protest the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
1980 – J.R. Ewing is shot on the TV show Dallas, sparking the summer-long question, “Who shot JR?” Spoiler alert – It was revealed in the season premiere on November 21st that J.R.’s sister-in-law Kristin Shepard was the one “Who done it” in the highest rated TV show episode at the time. Watch the most-talked-about TV season finale.
1989 – The first sea test of Trident 2 missile self-destructs over Cape Canaveral. The missile cost $23.7 million.
2016 – President Obama has a joint press conference with Cuban dictator Raul Castro. It ended with an awkward attempt at a hug.
1622 – In the first Indian (Powhatan) massacre of whites in Jamestown Virginia, 347 pilgrims are slain.
1765 – The Stamp Act is passed. It was the first direct British tax on colonists and it taxed all printed materials, including documents, newspapers, and playing cards. Following months of protests and riots in the Colonies, the Stamp Act was repealed one year later.
1794 – Congress bans U.S. vessels from supplying slaves to other countries.
1871 – William Holden of North Carolina is the first governor removed from office by impeachment. Holden was charged and convicted of declaring martial law, unlawfully raising troops, illegally declaring counties to be in a state of insurrection, illegally arresting citizens, seizing, detaining, imprisoning, and depriving those citizens of their liberty and privileges as freemen, and refusing to obey a writ of habeas corpus.
1946 – The WAC rocket, the first U.S. rocket to leave the Earth’s atmosphere, travels 50 miles up. Early rockets were named for women enlisted ranks in the Army. WAC stands for Women’s Army Corps.
1972 – The Senate passes the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), but has not been ratified. Only 35 of the required 38 states ratified the amendment by the 1979 deadline. Congress passed, and President Carter signed, a deadline extension to 1982, but no more stated ratified it. The ERA was first proposed by the National Women’s political party in 1923.
1980 – People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is founded by British-born Ingrid Newkirk and American-born Alex Pacheco. Watch Newkirk discuss why she thinks there is no “humane meat.”
2006 – British forces in Baghdad rescue three Christian Peacemaker Teams hostages after 118 days captivity. Their colleague, American Tom Fox, was found dead with gunshots in his head and chest.
1775 – Patrick Henry proclaims, while urging fellow Virginians to arm in self-defense, “I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death.”
1857 – Elisha Otis’ first elevator is installed in New York City.
1920 – Britain denounces the U.S. because of their delay in joining the League of Nations. The U.S. never joined the League of Nations and it was disbanded in 1946.
1936 – Dr. Joseph G. Hamilton injects a leukemia patient with a sodium radioisotope, the first intravenous injection of a human with a radioisotope. Hamilton and his research team also injected plutonium into 18 unsuspecting patients to observe the effects of radiation on humans. Hamilton died in 1957 at age 49 of leukemia. His death was ruled an industrial accident since it was suspected his disease was a consequence of his work.
1965 – Gemini 3 is launched, sending into space “Molly Brown,” the first 2-man U.S. flight with Gus Grissom and John Young on board. Grissom was one of three astronauts killed in a launch pad fire in 1967. Young went on to command the first Space Shuttle flight in 1981. Watch the launch into space.
1972 – Daredevil motorcycle driver Evel Knievel breaks his collarbone after successfully clearing 13 cars in Detroit, Michigan, on his Harley-Davidson XR-750. He holds the Guinness World Record for the most broken bones with over 400 by the end of 1975. Knievel died in 2007 at age 69.
1983 – U.S. President Ronald Reagan introduces the “Star Wars” plan (Strategic Defense Initiative). The SDI officially ended in 1993 under the Clinton Administration.
1987 – The first Soul Train Awards is held in Los Angeles and is hosted by Luther Vandross and Dionne Warwick. Watch a performance of “That’s What Friends Are For” featuring Dionne and her niece, the late Whitney Houston.
2005 – The U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, in a 2-1 decision, refuses to order the reinsertion of Terri Schiavo’s feeding tube. Schiavo died two weeks later at age 41 after suffering irreversible brain damage 15 years earlier. Terri had been in a persistent vegetative state since 1990 and was the subject of multiple legal battles.
2013 – The Senate approves its first budget in four years by a margin of 50–49. President Obama failed to submit a constitutionally required budget during his first term.
1765 – Britain enacts the Quartering Act, requiring colonists to provide temporary housing to British soldiers. The Third Amendment of the Constitution restricting the housing of soldiers during peacetime was in direct response to the British Quartering Act.
1832 – Mormon leader Joseph Smith is beaten, tarred, and feathered in Ohio by a mob led by the brother of then 16-year-old Nancy Miranda. In 1842, Miranda, who was already married, becomes Smith’s 10th wife.
1935 – Major Bowes’ Original Amateur Hour goes national on the NBC Radio Network. Ted Mack, who supervised the auditions, hosted the TV version in 1955. Listen to the oldest known recording of the show with the Hoboken Four featuring a very young Frank Sinatra.
1947 – John D. Rockefeller, Jr. donates the NYC East River site to the United Nations. The UN was founded in October of 1945. Construction on the headquarters building began in 1949 and was completed in 1952.
1949 – Walter and John Huston become the first father-and-son team to win Academy Awards in the same year. Walter won for Best Supporting Actor and John won for Best Director for “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre.”
1998 – Two students, Andrew Golden, age 11, and Mitchell Johnson, age 13, fire on teachers and students at Westside Middle School in Jonesboro, Arkansas, killing five people and wounding ten. Both were found guilty, incarcerated until they were 21 years old, then released. In 2007, Johnson was indicted on federal weapons and drug charges. He was released on parole in July 2015. Andrew Golden, who changed his name to Drew Grant, died in a car accident in 2019 at age 33. Johnson, now 38, is the only living mass school shooter who is not incarcerated.
2014 – The U.S. and its allies announce they will exclude Russia from the G8 meeting and boycott a planned summit in Sochi in response to Russia’s takeover of Crimea. The G7 summit was held in Brussels in June with a condemnation of Russia’s violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty.
1851 – Yosemite Valley is discovered in California. Yosemite became a national park in 1890. Naturalist John Muir helped drew its boundaries in 1889 and co-founded the Sierra Club in 1892 to help protect it.
1863 – The Secretary of War awards the first Army Medals of Honor to six Union Army volunteers.
1911 – 145 women die in a fire at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in New York City. The doors were locked so the mostly teenaged, non-English speaking girls could not get out the 4th floor sweatshop.
1931 – The “Scottsboro Boys” are arrested in Alabama. Nine young men were falsely accused of sexually assaulting two women on a train. All but the 12-year-old boy were convicted and sentenced to death. Eventually, the Supreme Court overturned the convictions based on the violation of due process clause and the men are retried. They were still convicted of rape, but were sentenced to varied-length prison terms.
1958 – Sugar Ray Robinson becomes the first boxing champion to win 5 titles when he defeats Carmen Basilio in 15 rounds by a split decision. Watch the second half of the fight.
1966 – The U.S. Supreme Court rules that a “poll tax” is unconstitutional. In Harper v. Virginia Board of Elections, the Court declared that the imposition of a poll tax in state elections violated the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
1987 – The Supreme Court rules that women and minorities may get jobs if they are less qualified as part of Affirmative Action.
2004 – The Senate votes (61-38) on the Unborn Victims of Violence Act (H.R. 1997), making it a separate crime to harm a fetus during the commission of a violent federal crime.
1790 – Congress passes the Naturalization Act, requiring 2-year U.S. residency.
1910 – The U.S. forbids immigration of criminals, anarchists, paupers, and the sick.
1943 – U.S. army nurse 2nd Lt. Elsie S. Ott is the first woman to receive an Air Medal. Ott was awarded the medal by Brig. Gen. Fred W. Borum for her role in the emergency evacuation of five military personnel from India to the U.S. and her medical information for future rescues.
1953 – Dr. Jonas Salk announces on the radio that the Polio vaccine has been successfully tested. Watch a report with actual footage of Salk administering the vaccine to children.
1982 – Ground-breaking takes place for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC. The Wall was completed in November. The $9 million Memorial was paid for completely by private donations.
1997 – Comet Hale-Bopp makes its closest approach to Earth (1.315 Astronomical Units). It was visible in the Northern Hemisphere for around 16 months. About 40 people who were part of the “Heaven’s Gate” cult in San Diego committed mass suicide as the comet came close to Earth. Watch news footage featuring a former member.
1999 – A Michigan jury finds Dr. Jack Kevorkian guilty of second-degree murder for administering a lethal injection to a terminally ill man during a “physician-assisted suicide.” He was sentenced to 10 to 25 years in prison. Kevorkian was paroled in 2007 after being diagnosed with Hepatitis C. He died in 2011 at age 83.
2007 – The U.S. Postal Service unveils the design for the “Forever Stamp.” There is no price printed on the stamp so, once purchased, it can be used by customers even if the price of a postage stamp increases.
Image from: NPR