Category: Today in history


March 11th in history:

Scalia Reno

A three-day standoff in Washington, D.C. ended on March 11th, 1977, when a group of armed Hanafi Muslims released dozens of hostages who had been held at three buildings. Two people died during the siege, and future Washington Mayor Marion Barry was wounded by gunfire.

The Branch Davidian standoff at Waco, Texas had being going for two weeks when Janet Reno became the first female attorney general of the U.S. on this day in 1993.  Reno was blamed by many for the fiery and deadly conclusion of the Waco incident, but she remained head of the Justice Department for almost eight years.

Justice Antonin Scalia served nearly 30 years on the U.S. Supreme Court, after being appointed in 1986. Scalia was born March 11th, 1936.

Author and attorney Erle Stanley Gardner played a judge in the final episode of the “Perry Mason” TV series in 1966…which is fitting, because Gardner created the character of Mason, a defense lawyer who never loses a case.  Gardner was 80 years old when he died on March 11th, 1970.



March 10th in history:

french flagOn March 10th, 1785, Thomas Jefferson was appointed the U.S. minister to France, replacing Benjamin Franklin.

Nineteen years later, Jefferson was president of the United States, and negotiated the purchase of the Louisiana territory from France. The purchase was made official in St. Louis on March 10th, 1804.

And the French Foreign Legion was established by King Louis-Philippe on this day in 1831.


March 9th in history:

On March 9th, 1965, more than two thousand civil rights demonstrators led by Martin Luther King Jr. marched to the Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama for the second time in three days.  State troopers had physically attacked marchers on March 7th, to keep them from crossing the bridge on a trek from Selma to the state capital of Montgomery.  The March 9th demonstration ended with the group turning back at the bridge because of a court order blocking the march.  The full march to Montgomery was permitted later that month.

The “original” Martin Luther earned a bachelor’s degree in Bible studies on this date in 1508, a year after becoming a Catholic priest.  Five years later, on March 9th, 1513, the pope who would eventually excommunicate Luther was elected.  Giovanni de Medici took the papal name Leo X.

The shout “Attaboy, Luther!” is a running joke in the Don Knotts comedy “The Ghost and Mr. Chicken,” written by Jim Fritzell and Everett Greenbaum.  Fritzell was only 59 when he died on this date in 1979.  He and Greenbaum worked as a writing team for decades, contributing to many popular TV series including “The Andy Griffith Show,” “Mister Peepers,” “Sanford and Son,” and “M*A*S*H.”



March 8th in history:

Two U.S. presidents died on March 8th: Millard Fillmore in 1874, and William Howard Taft in 1930.  Fillmore was not nominated for a second term by the Whigs in 1852, and finished third in the electoral vote in the 1856 election.  Taft came in third in his 1912 re-election bid, behind Woodrow Wilson and Teddy Roosevelt.  Taft served as Chief Justice for nine years, and retired just weeks before his death.

Charles De Gaulle was still president of France when construction began on an airport near Paris that would be named after him.  De Gaulle International Airport opened eight years later, on this date in 1974.

Arthur Dent began his travels through the universe when the first episode of the radio show “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” was broadcast on the BBC on this date in 1978.

And March 8th is the birthday of the “Skipper” who led the S.S. Minnow on an infamous “three-hour tour.” Alan Hale of “Gilligan’s Island” was born on this date in 1921.

In its final season, “Gilligan’s Island” aired Monday nights on CBS, opposite “The Monkees” on NBC.  Monkees singer and drummer Micky Dolenz was born March 8th, 1945.



March 7th in history:

On March 7th, 1912, explorer Roald Amundsen publicly announced that he had reached the South Pole nearly three months earlier. Amundsen had to wait until arriving in Australia before announcing his feat, because there were no telephone poles at the South Pole.

Telephones had been around for more than 30 years, though. On March 7th, 1876, Alexander Graham Bell was granted a patent for his telephone. Bell didn’t prove that the invention actually worked until three days later.

Alexander Graham Bell was played by Don Ameche in a 1939 movie biography, and it became Ameche’s most famous role.  Two years later, Ameche starred in the movie “Kiss the Boys Goodbye” with Mary Martin, whose most popular role on stage and TV was Peter Pan.  On this date in 1955, Martin starred in a live color production of “Peter Pan” on NBC, which set a ratings record with an audience of 65 million viewers.



March 6th in history:

The Alamo fell to Mexican forces on this day in 1836, after a 13-day siege over whether the land would be controlled by Mexico or settlers of Texas.

“The Defense of the Alamo” was a 1953 episode of the TV series “You Are There,” hosted by Walter Cronkite of CBS News. Cronkite later went on to anchor “The CBS Evening News” and live coverage of many manned space flights. He also hosted a Saturday morning revival of “You Are There” in the 1970s, which included a story about the Alamo.  Cronkite’s last night on the “Evening News” was March 6th, 1981.

March 6th is the birthday of Mercury astronaut Gordon Cooper (1927), and the first woman in space, Valentina Tereshkova (1937). It’s also the birthday of a guy who knows about “The Dark Side of the Moon” — Pink Floyd musician David Gilmour (1946).



March 5th in history:

Two famous show-business deaths on March 5th: John Belushi and Patsy Cline, who were both in their early 30s when they died. Comedian Belushi was found dead of a drug overdose on this day in 1982. Cline and other country singers were killed in a 1963 plane crash in Tennessee.

John Belushi once played an alien named Kuldorth in a “Coneheads” sketch on “Saturday Night Live.”  On the day Belushi died in ’82, a Soviet spacecraft called Venera 14 landed on the surface of Venus, surviving the heat and atmospheric pressure of the planet for nearly an hour to take photographs.

A milestone in flight on March 5th, 1912: It was the first time that a dirigible, or zeppelin, was used for military purposes, when Italy sent a dirigible behind Turkish lines on a spy mission.

Led Zeppelin performed “Stairway to Heaven” for the first time in public in Belfast, Northern Ireland, on March 5th, 1971. The band’s bassist, John Paul Jones, says audience members were bored by the song because they had never heard it before.