May 29th in history:
A National World War II Memorial was dedicated in Washington, D.C. on May 29th, 2004, nearly 60 years after the end of the war. The monument was built on the National Mall, between the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial.
Two famous Americans who have had U.S. Navy ships named after them were born on May 29th: President John F. Kennedy (1917), and comedian Bob Hope (1903). It was during World War II when Kennedy commanded the boat PT-109 in the Pacific, and Hope began a long tradition of taking USO shows to American troops overseas.
Shortly after JFK’s assassination, his widow Jacqueline compared the Kennedy White House to King Arthur’s Camelot. The musical “Camelot” was based on the “Once and Future King” series of books about Arthur by English author T.H. White, born on May 29th, 1906.
Bob Hope’s partner in the “Road” pictures, Bing Crosby, recorded his biggest hit on this date in 1942. His original version of Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas” was recorded in just 18 minutes.
Edmund Hillary and his guide Tenzing Norgay reached the white, snow-covered summit of Mount Everest on May 29th, 1953. While there is speculation that other climbers reached the summit years before, Hillary claimed credit as the first one to come back from the summit alive.
March 14th in history:
Warren G. Harding made history on March 14th, 1923, as the first president to file an income tax report. This was 10 years after the 16th Amendment was ratified, legalizing income taxes in the U.S.
Harding died of an illness later that year, the third year of his presidency. John F. Kennedy also died in his third year as president. Just after his assassination, Kennedy was buried in a simple grave at Arlington Cemetery. On this day in 1967, Kennedy’s body was moved to a more elaborate gravesite. Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and two Kennedy children also are buried at the site, with the graves of Senators Robert and Edward Kennedy nearby.
Two days after JFK was killed, Dallas bar owner Jack Ruby shot and killed suspected assassin Lee Harvey Oswald on live TV. On this day in 1964, Ruby was convicted of Oswald’s murder.
President Kennedy set a national goal of landing a man on the moon by the end of the 1960′s. Astronauts Frank Borman and Eugene Cernan both orbited the moon on different Apollo flights, and Cernan actually walked on the moon during the last manned lunar mission, Apollo 17. Both men were born on March 14th…Borman in 1928, and Cernan six years later.
December 26 in history:
A theatre fire in Richmond, Virginia, on December 26th, 1811 was considered one of the worst disasters in U.S. history at the time. Seventy-two of the 600 people attending the Richmond Theatre that night were killed by the fire, including the governor of Virginia.
Two of America’s longest-living presidents died on December 26th, more than 30 years apart. Both were vice presidents who rose to the presidency on short notice. Harry Truman was 88 when he died on the day after Christmas of 1972. 93-year-old Gerald Ford died in 2006, just weeks after setting the record for longevity among U.S. presidents.
Gerald Ford’s birth name was Leslie King, Jr. Another fellow who changed his name to “King” was born Irwin Alan Kniberg on December 26th, 1927. Alan King became famous as an actor and stand-up comedian who performed for royalty and presidents, including hosting duties at a show for President Kennedy’s inauguration.
November 25 in history:
An amendment dealing with presidential succession was discussed again after the John F. Kennedy assassination. President Kennedy was buried at Arlington National Cemetery on November 25th of 1963 — the day his son John Junior turned three years old. Film footage shows young John saluting at his father’s funeral procession.
Two other presidential children — twins Jenna and Barbara Bush, the daughters of George W. Bush — were born on this date in 1981. Their grandfather George Herbert Walker Bush was in his first year as vice president at the time.
November 24 in history:
A one-of-a-kind crime in the sky happened on this date in 1971, aboard a Northwest Orient jet. A passenger who bought a ticket under the name “Dan Cooper” hijacked a flight between Portland, Oregon and Seattle, suggesting that he had a bomb inside a briefcase. Cooper was given parachutes and $200,000 in cash after the plane landed. He then jumped out of the plane after it took off again. Investigators have never figured out what happened to the hijacker, who became known as “D.B. Cooper,” but some of the ransom money did turn up in the woods years later.
Millions of Americans witnessed a real-life crime on live TV when tavern owner Jack Ruby shot and killed Lee Harvey Oswald in front of reporters and television cameras at the Dallas jail on November 24th, 1963. It was just two days after Oswald was arrested for the assassination of President Kennedy.
The three major networks suspended all regular programming for four days after Kennedy’s death. One of the cancelled programs that was scheduled for the night of November 24th was a special recapping the 1963 Grammy Awards, at which the Album of the Year award went to the Vaughn Meader satire of Kennedy, “The First Family.”
Marvin Hamlisch won four Grammys for 1974, including Best Pop Instrumental Performance for his recording of “The Entertainer” by Scott Joplin, from the movie “The Sting.” The film’s ragtime score led to a revival of Joplin’s songs. Many musicians celebrate November 24th of 1868 as Joplin’s birthday, but now it is believed he was born sometime in 1867.
November 22 in history:
On the last day of his life, John F. Kennedy was thinking about the 1964 election. President Kennedy and his wife, Jackie, were making a political trip through Texas on November 22nd, 1963. The president had appearances scheduled that day with Vice President Lyndon Johnson in Fort Worth, Dallas, and Austin. Kennedy only got to attend the breakfast in Fort Worth. Gunfire broke out as the president’s motorcade was leaving downtown Dallas on the way to a luncheon. Kennedy and Texas Governor John Connally, riding with their wives in an open car, were hit by bullets, and taken to Parkland Hospital. Within a short time, Kennedy was dead, Johnson was president, and the world was in mourning.
While in Fort Worth, Kennedy made a phone call to wish John Nance Garner a happy 95th birthday. Texas native Garner served two terms as Vice President under Franklin Roosevelt. French President Charles de Gaulle turned 73 on that Friday in ’63. The following Monday, de Gaulle was in Washington to join other world leaders at Kennedy’s funeral.
A few hours before the Kennedy shooting, “The CBS Morning News,” anchored by Mike Wallace, aired a story about a new rock-and-roll band creating a stir in England. That may have been the first time many Americans heard about the Beatles. The story on CBS coincided with the release that day of a new album by the Fab Four in the UK, called “With the Beatles.” The same album was sold later in the US under the name “Meet the Beatles.”
In later years, the Beatles recorded songs with references to politicians such as British Prime Ministers Harold Wilson and Edward Heath. The first English woman to serve as Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, stepped down because of a political power struggle on November 22nd, 1990. Thatcher had held that post for 11 years.
November 8 in history:
Two Roosevelts were elected president on November 8th — 28 years apart. The first was Teddy Roosevelt in 1904, winning a full term after filling out the unexpired term of William McKinley. And Franklin D. Roosevelt defeated Herbert Hoover in 1932 for the first of his four presidential wins.
This was also the date in 1960 when John F. Kennedy narrowly beat Richard Nixon for the White House.
Columnist Dorothy Kilgallen wrote many newspaper stories questioning the official government report on the Kennedy assassination. Kilgallen died suddenly on November 8th, 1965, a few hours after her regular weekly appearance on the game show “What’s My Line?” Conspiracy theorists have suggested someone murdered Kilgallen for knowing too much about the assassination, or UFO’s, or something else. By coincidence, Kilgallen’s death was announced on CBS just after her pre-taped appearance on an episode of “To Tell the Truth.”
Many popular TV game shows were turned into home games by the Milton Bradley Company of Massachusetts, including “Concentration,” “Password,” and “Jeopardy!” Inventor Milton Bradley’s first successful game was “The Checkered Game of Life.” Bradley was born on November 8th, 1836.
October 22 in history:
On October 22nd, 1962, President John F. Kennedy made a televised speech publicly revealing the existence of Soviet missiles in Cuba. In the speech, Kennedy announced a quarantine on ships that might be carrying offensive weapons to Cuba.
By coincidence, Kennedy’s address fell on the same night that JFK impersonator Vaughn Meader was recording a comedy album about the president, to be called “The First Family.” Meader later said that the actors knew about the speech before the recording session, but the studio audience did not. He thought the audience members would not have laughed as much, if they had been aware of the missile crisis.
Appearing on TV that October night in ’62, besides the president, was the game show “I’ve Got a Secret,” created by song-parody writer Allan Sherman, best known for “Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh.” His record “My Son, the Folk Singer” lost the Grammy for album of the year in 1963 to “The First Family.”
Marc Shaiman is famous for writing parodies and other songs for award-show hosts such as Billy Crystal and Neil Patrick Harris. And Shaiman won a Grammy and a Tony for his songs from the musical “Hairspray.” He was born October 22nd, 1959.
September 27 in history:
Pope Urban the 7th (real name, Giovanni Castagna) died on this date in 1590. He had only been the pope for 13 days, the shortest papacy ever. There was no controversy about the cause of death…Pope Urban died of malaria.
The assassination of the first Catholic president of the U.S. led to a government investigation that concluded on September 27th, 1964, with the release of the Warren Commission report. The Commission led by Chief Justice Earl Warren concluded that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone in killing President John F. Kennedy. TV networks did live programs about the Commission findings at the hour the report was released to the public.
A live late-night program called “Tonight!” debuted on September 27th, 1954, on NBC. Steve Allen was host for the first three years, succeeded by Jack Paar, Johnny Carson, Jay Leno, and Conan O’Brien. Allen’s first night as host was also the 34th birthday of his wife, actress Jayne Meadows.
September 15 in history:
September 15th of 1901 was Theodore Roosevelt’s first full day as president, after the assassination of William McKinley. Roosevelt had been vice president for only six months before succeeding McKinley. It was the 44th birthday of William Howard Taft, who would follow T.R. into the Oval Office eight years later.
Taft is one of only two U.S. presidents buried at Arlington National Cemetery. The other is John F. Kennedy.
Two men associated with the 1991 movie “JFK” were both born on September 15th, 1946…the film’s director, Oliver Stone, and actor Tommy Lee Jones.
The Hollywood star most closely associated with JFK filmed what is probably her most famous movie scene on this date in 1954. Early that morning. Marilyn Monroe stood over a subway grate on Lexington Avenue in New York as air from the grate blew her skirt above her knees, for a scene in “The Seven Year Itch.” The actual New York footage was not used in the movie. The scene was re-created on a Hollywood lot.