May 14th in history:
The Lewis and Clark Expedition began its journey up the Missouri River on May 14th, 1804, with William Clark leading a group of explorers from a camp in the Illinois territory. Meriwether Lewis met up with Clark’s group a week later.
The U.S. space program began a new chapter when Skylab was launched on May 14th, 1973, just five months after the last manned flight to the moon. Skylab was America’s first orbiting space station, and remained in orbit for six years.
“Star Wars” creator George Lucas was born on this date in 1944. Lucas also is famous for his collaboration with Steven Spielberg on the Indiana Jones movies. And it’s the birthday of Robert Zemeckis (1952), who directed and co-wrote the “Back to the Future” movies produced by Spielberg.
May 13th in history:
On May 13th, 1917, three young shepherds reported seeing a vision of the Virgin Mary for the first time at Fatima, Portugal.
One “Secret” reportedly revealed to the children by Mary has been interpreted as a prediction of an attack against a future Pope. On this date in 1981, Pope John Paul II was shot and wounded by a gunman in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican.
The founder of the Peoples Temple, Jim Jones, was born May 13th, 1931.
A segment on “The Daily Show” called “This Week in God” turned out to be a blessing for actor and comedian Stephen Colbert, born on this day in 1964. Colbert got his own late-night spinoff called “The Colbert Report,” and in 2015, he succeeded David Letterman as host of “The Late Show” on CBS.
Colbert was not born on a Friday, but singer Darius Rucker, formerly of Hootie and the Blowfish, was a Friday the 13th baby on this day in 1966. And Stevie Wonder, who had a hit record called “Superstition” in 1972, was born on May 13th in 1950.
May 12th in history:
On May 12th, 1937, Prince Albert Frederick Arthur George, the Duke of York, was officially crowned King of England, taking the name George VI. He already had been the king since the previous December, when his brother, King Edward VIII, abdicated to marry a divorced American woman.
Actor Colin Firth won an Oscar for playing Albert, or “Bertie,” in the movie The King’s Speech. Firth’s portrayal included frequent cursing, including some of the “Seven Words You Can’t Say on Television,” immortalized in a routine by comedian George Carlin…born on the same day King George was crowned in 1937.
Carlin created the character of Al Sleet, the “hippie-dippie” weatherman. On May 12th, 1978, Al Sleet could have announced the news that the U.S. would start using men’s names for hurricanes again, after years of using only women’s names. (The name “George” already had been used for a hurricane in 1950.)
May 11th in history:
Nova Roma, not Constantinople …
On May 11th, 330 A.D., the city of Byzantium was renamed “Nova Roma” by Roman emperor Constantine I. After he died, the city became known as “Constantinople.”
Siam changed its name to Thailand on May 11th, 1949.
Shortly after he was killed in Vietnam on this day in 1972, the remains of Air Force Lt. Michael Blassie were sent to Thailand for storage. Eventually, the remains were returned to the U.S., but Blassie’s identity could not be confirmed, and he became the Unknown Soldier for the Vietnam War. He was buried at the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington National Cemetery from 1984 until 1998, when his identity was proved. Blassie was re-buried in Missouri.
The composer who wrote “God Bless America” and “White Christmas” was born Israel Baline in Russia on May 11th, 1888. He spelled his last name “Beilin” when he became a songwriter, but when it was misspelled “Berlin” on the sheet music for his first published song, he adopted the name Irving Berlin.
And actor Philip Silver changed his name to Phil Silvers, although TV audiences of the ’50s knew him better as “Sergeant Bilko.” Silvers, born on this day in 1911, also starred in “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World” and his TV production company Gladasya made “Gilligan’s Island”, on which he guest-starred as producer Harold Hecuba.
May 10th in history:
Winston Churchill first became prime minister of Great Britain on this day in 1940. It was during Churchill’s second term in the 1950s that he was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature for writing history books.
Nelson Mandela won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993. Less than a year later, on May 10th, 1994, Mandela became the first black president of South Africa.
A movie about Nelson Mandela called “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom” was released in 2013. The film received an Oscar nomination for the song “Ordinary Love,” written and performed by U2. The band’s lead singer, Bono, was born Paul Hewson on May 10th, 1960. Bono has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, has received other humanitarian awards, and was named a Person of the Year by Time magazine in 2005.
May 9th in history:
A new show on a Washington TV station made its debut on May 9th, 1955. It was a puppet show – called “Sam and Friends”, featuring comedy sketches by Jim Henson – which evolved into the Muppets.
The televised impeachment hearings against President Nixon by the House Judiciary Committee began in Washington on May 9th, 1974. The committee approved three articles of impeachment in late July. Nixon resigned less than two weeks after the committee votes.
A speech made in Washington, D.C. on the subject of television made headlines on May 9th, 1961. New FCC Commissioner Newton Minow told the National Association of Broadcasters that the majority of TV programming was a “vast wasteland.” Minow said the purpose of the speech was to urge broadcasters to air more programs in the public interest.
And May 9th is the birthday of several people who have won multiple awards for working on TV news shows…real and fictional:
Original “60 Minutes” anchor Mike Wallace, born on this date in 1918, won 21 news Emmys in his career.
Candice Bergen (born 1946) won five Emmy awards for playing fictional TV journalist “Murphy Brown.”
James L. Brooks (1940) directed the movie “Broadcast News,” and was co-creator of “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” set in a TV newsroom in Minneapolis, which received 29 Emmys in seven seasons. The “Mary Tyler Moore” theme song, “Love Is All Around,” was written and sung by Sonny Curtis, born on May 9th of 1937. Curtis performed with Buddy Holly’s band, the Crickets, and also wrote the song “I Fought the Law.”
The mountain-peak logo of Paramount Pictures is one of the most familiar Hollywood symbols. Paramount was founded on May 8th, 1914.
Explorer Hernando de Soto traveled through the mountains and prairies to the Mississippi River on this date in 1541. De Soto was on the east bank, in modern-day Tennessee. It took a month for him and his traveling group of 400 to cross over to what is now Arkansas.
It’s the birthday of one man who made people afraid to go near the water, especially the ocean. Peter Benchley, the author of “Jaws,” was born May 8th, 1940. Steven Spielberg’s film version of “Jaws” was the number-one movie of 1975. Benchley was born on the same day and year as singer Toni Tennille, who with husband Daryl Dragon (billed as the Captain and Tennille) had the number-one record of ’75, “Love Will Keep Us Together.”