This Week in History: March 23-29, 2020


This Week in History
by Dianne Hermann

“That men do not learn very much from the lessons of history
is the most important of all the lessons of history.” Aldous Huxley

Week of March 23-29, 2020


March 23

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 at 488 Broadway 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.

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).

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 2 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.

March 24

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. The movie was “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre.” Walter won for Best Supporting Actor and John won for Best Director.

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. Golden and Johnson, now 32 and 34 respectively, are the only living mass school shooters who are 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.

March 25

1851 – Yosemite Valley is discovered in California. Yosemite became a national park in 1890. Naturalist John Muir helped draw 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.

1915 – A U.S. F-4 submarine sinks off Hawaii, killing 21 sailors. It was the first submarine disaster.

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 U.S. Supreme Court rules that women and minorities may get jobs if they are less qualified as part of Affirmative Action.

2004 – The U.S. 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.

March 26

1790 – Congress passes the Naturalization Act, requiring a 2-year 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 about 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.

March 27

1794 – The U.S. Government establishes a permanent navy and authorizes the building of six frigates.

1912 – The first cherry blossom trees are planted in Washington, DC. The trees were a gift from Japan.

1956 – The U.S. seizes U.S. communist newspaper “Daily Worker” for non-payment of taxes. The newspaper was founded in 1924 by the American Communist Party. The last issue was published in January 1958.

1964 – An earthquake, 9.2 on the Richter scale, strikes Alaska, killing 118. It was the strongest earthquake to hit the U.S. In fact, nine of the top ten strongest earthquakes in the U.S. have hit Alaska. Watch amateur film footage of the aftermath:

1973 – Marlon Brando refuses to accept the Oscar for best actor in “The Godfather” at the Academy Awards ceremony in protest of the treatment of American Indians. Sacheen Littlefeather gave a speech citing the reasons for Brando declining the Oscar. Listen to Littlefeather’s speech:

1979 – The U.S. Supreme Court rules 8-1 that police can’t randomly stop cars because it violates the 4th Amendment protection from illegal search and seizure.

1998 – The U.S. FDA approves the prescription drug Viagra. It is the first pill for male impotence.

2007 – National Football League owners vote to make the instant replay a permanent officiating tool.

March 28

1774 – Britain passes the Coercive Acts, also known as the Intolerable Acts, against Massachusetts colonists in response to the Boston Tea Party.

1885 – The U.S. Salvation Army is officially organized. William Booth and his wife Catherine started the Salvation Army in England in 1852.

1917 – The Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC) is founded during World War I.

1921 – President Warren Harding nominates former president William Howard Taft as chief justice of the Supreme Court. Taft is the only former president to also serve on the Supreme Court.

1946 – The U.S. State Department releases the Acheson-Lilienthal Report, outlining a plan for the international control of nuclear power. It was written in large part by Robert Oppenheimer, the committee’s chief scientific consultant, who is known as “the father of the atomic bomb.”

1966 – The inaugural Country & Western Music Awards is held at the Palladium in Hollywood. Merle Haggard and Buck Owens were among the winners. Its name was changed to the Academy of Country Music in the early 70s and the awards were first aired on TV in 1972 (7th Annual). Loretta Lynn and Freddie Hart won as top female and male vocalists. Watch Kenny Rogers award the top album of the year:

1979 – A partial meltdown causes a major nuclear accident at Nuclear Generating Station #2 at Three Mile Island in Middletown, Pennsylvania. There were no deaths and Station #2 was permanently shut down. Station #1 was shut down in September 2019. Watch an ABS News report:

1990 – Jesse Owens is posthumously awarded the Congressional Gold Medal by President George H. W. Bush. In the 1936 Berlin Olympics, Owens became the first American in Olympic Track and Field history to win four gold medals in a single Olympiad. Owens died in 1980 at age 66.

2010 – China’s Zhejiang Geely Holding Group Company signs a deal to buy Ford Motor Company’s Volvo car unit for $1.8 billion.

March 29

1806 – Construction is authorized of the Great National Pike, better known as the Cumberland Road, becoming the first federal highway in the U.S.

1867 – Congress approves the Lincoln Memorial. The Memorial was dedicated in 1922 and Lincoln’s only surviving son, 79-year-old Robert Todd Lincoln, was in attendance.

1951 – Julius and Ethel Rosenberg are convicted of spying. They were executed in 1953. Watch a 1951 newsreel of the events:

1961 – The 23rd Amendment is ratified, allowing Washington, DC residents to vote in presidential elections.

1971 – 1st Lt. William L. Calley, Jr. is found guilty in the My Lai (Vietnam) massacre and is sentenced to life in prison with hard labor. Calley was transferred to house arrest pending appeal, where he served 3 1/2 years at Fort Benning, Georgia, before being released. He was finally pardoned by President Nixon in 1974. Calley is now 76 years old.

1973 – U.S. troops leave Vietnam, nine years after The Tonkin Resolution. Two U.S. ships were attacked in the Gulf of Tonkin by three Vietnamese Navy ships on August 2, 1964. At President LBJ’s request Congress passed the Resolution authorizing the president “to take all necessary steps, including the use of armed force, to assist any member or protocol state of the Southeast Asia Collective Defense Treaty requesting assistance in defense of its freedom.” President Nixon signed the repeal of the resolution in 1971.

1974 – U.S. space probe Mariner 10 becomes the first spacecraft to reach the planet Mercury. It was launched on November 3, 1973.

1979 – The Committee on Assassinations Report issued by House of Representatives states the assassination of President John F. Kennedy was the result of a conspiracy.

1995 – The House of Representatives rejects a constitutional amendment that would have limited terms to 12 years in the House and Senate.

1999 – The Dow Jones Industrial Average closes above 10,000 for the first time.


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