This Week in History
by Dianne Hermann
“No problem of human making is too great to be overcome by
human ingenuity, human energy, and the untiring hope of the human spirit.”
President George H. W. Bush
Week of March 25-31, 2019
1851 – Yosemite Valley is discovered in California. Galen Clark was the park’s first guardian.
1863 – The Secretary of War awards the first Army Medal 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.
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 that 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.
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 was the first pill for male impotence.
2007 – National Football League owners vote to make the instant replay a permanent officiating tool.
1774 – Britain passes the Coercive Acts against Massachusetts in response to the Boston Tea Party. Also called the Intolerable Acts, the punitive laws were meant to punish the Colonists.
1885 – The U.S. Salvation Army is officially organized. William Booth and his wife Catherine started the Salvation Army in England in 1852.
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.
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 1970s 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 is still operational. 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.
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 75 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 stated 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 the 10,000 mark for the first time ever (10006.78).
1842 – Dr. Crawford Long of Jefferson, Georgia, uses ether as an anesthetic during surgery for the first time.
1867 – The U.S. Secretary of State William Seward agrees to buy Alaska from Russia for $7.2 million, or 2 cents an acre, in what becomes known as Seward’s Folly. Gold was discovered in the Yukon in 1896. Watch a brief history of Alaska’s acquisition:
1870 – Texas becomes the last confederate state readmitted to the Union after the Civil War.
1932 – Amelia Earhart is the first woman to fly solo cross the Atlantic.
1939 – The comic book “Detective Comics #27” appears on newsstands. This comic book introduced Batman.
1964 – Astronaut John Glenn withdraws from the Ohio senate race because of injuries he suffered in a fall. Glenn finally won his senate seat in 1974 after a third run and served until he retired in 1997. In 1998, John Glenn became the oldest astronaut to go into space. Glenn died in 2016 at the age of 95.
1964 – “Jeopardy” debuts on TV and is hosted by Art Fleming. Merv Griffin created the daytime game show. The nighttime game show debuted in 1984 and is still hosted by Alex Trebek. Watch part an early episode (and notice the dollar amounts of clues):
1981 – President Ronald Reagan is shot and wounded by John Hinckley, Jr. President Reagan recovered while Hinckley was found not guilty by reason of insanity. Hinckley, now 63 years old, was released in 2016 from of St. Elizabeth’s Mental Hospital in Washington, DC after 35 years.
2012 – The U.S. Mega Millions lottery hits a then world record lottery amount of $656 million. There were three winning tickets.
1870 – Thomas P. Mundy of Perth Amboy, New Jersey, is the first black person to vote in the U.S. Mundy died in 1904 at age 79.
1906 – The Intercollegiate Athletic Association of the United States is founded to set rules in amateur sports. The organization became the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) in 1910.
1918 – Daylight savings time goes into effect for the first time in the U.S.
1930 – The Motion Pictures Production Code (Hays Code) is instituted, imposing strict guidelines on the treatment of sex, crime, religion, and violence in film for the next thirty-eight years. The new film rating system went into effect in 1968 using G (general), M (mature), R (restricted), and X (sexually explicit).
1948 – Congress passes the Marshall Aid Act to rehabilitate war-torn Europe.
1949 – RCA releases the first single 45-rpm record. It was “Texarkana Baby” and “Bouquet of Roses” by Eddy Arnold. Listen to “Texarkana Baby” on an original 45-rpm record:
1954 – The U.S. Air Force Academy is established in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
1981 – The first Raspberry Awards are held to honor the worst films of the previous year. The 1980 winner (or loser) was “Can’t Stop the Music.”
2008 – Senator and presidential candidate Obama criticizes President Bush for “Trying to bring more and more power into the executive branch and not going through Congress at all.” Watch his comments and broken campaign promise:
Image from dol.gov