October 20 in history:
A dramatic night in Washington on October 20th, 1973…
President Nixon wanted the attorney general, Elliot Richardson, to fire Watergate special prosecutor Archibald Cox. Richardson resigned instead of carrying out the order. So did his deputy A.G., William Ruckelshaus. Cox was fired by the third man approached by Nixon, Solicitor General and future Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork. The incident became known as the “Saturday Night Massacre,” and fueled efforts to impeach Nixon.
News of the political turmoil interrupted network TV schedules that night. “The Carol Burnett Show” was a popular Saturday night program in 1973. A special episode of the Burnett show was presented at the new Sydney Opera House in Australia in honor of the building’s grand opening, which took place the same date and year as the Washington “massacre.”
Another Saturday night TV hit in October 1973 was “M*A*S*H.” William Christopher, who played Father Mulcahy on the series, was born on October 20th, 1932.
September 24 in history:
On September 24th, 1789, President George Washington signed the Judiciary Act, creating the U.S. Supreme Court and the office of Attorney General.
The Attorney General can investigate cases of treason and espionage. The office was created too late for the Benedict Arnold case. On this date in 1780, Arnold fled to a British ship on the Hudson River after his plot to surrender West Point to the British was foiled.
The government conspiracy thriller “Three Days of the Condor”, starring Robert Redford as a CIA employee, was released on this day in 1975. The movie opened a year after Redford starred in “The Great Gatsby,” based on the novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald, who was born on September 24th, 1896.
March 11th in history:
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.