March 24th in history:
On March 24th, 1900, the mayor of New York City broke ground for the city’s first subway line to link Manhattan and Brooklyn. The first New York subway would open four years later.
March 24th is the birthday of American businessman George Francis Train (1829). Appropriately, Train was one founder of the Union Pacific railroad. He also campaigned for president, and for “Dictator of the United States.” Train made a trip around the world in less than three months, and reportedly inspired Jules Verne to write “Around the World in 80 Days.” Verne died on this date in 1905, at age 77.
You don’t have to be a science fiction nerd to like Jules Verne’s works, or to like two actors with March 24th birthdays who are famous for playing nerds in the movies and on TV: Robert Carradine (born 1954), Lewis Skolnick from Revenge of the Nerds, and Jim Parsons (1973), Dr. Sheldon Cooper on “The Big Bang Theory.”
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.
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 4th in history:
Franklin D. Roosevelt was sworn in for the first of his four terms as president on March 4th, 1933. It was the last March inauguration. The swearing-in date changed to January 20th in 1937. FDR’s first inaugural address was the one in which he said “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”
Fear of an unseen, menacing truck driver is what drives the plot of Steven Spielberg’s 1971 made-for-TV movie Duel. The real driver behind the wheel of the truck in Duel was stunt driver Carey Loftin, who also drove in famous chase scenes for Bullitt and It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. Loftin was 83 years old when he died on this date in 1997.
March 4th is the birthday of the AAA (American Automobile Association), founded in Chicago in 1902.
German auto maker Gottlieb Daimler unveiled his first automobile on this day in 1887. Daimler is credited as the inventor of the first four-wheel auto.
Popular hot-rod designer of the 1960s, Ed “Big Daddy” Roth, was born on March 4th, 1932.
March 3rd in history:
“The Star-Spangled Banner” became the national anthem of the United States on March 3rd, 1931.
On this date in 1845, Florida became the 27th star in the flag when it joined the union.
The Apollo 9 mission was launched from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on this date in 1969. It was the first test flight for the lunar landing module, and its three-man crew consisted of Jim McDivitt, Rusty Schweikart, and David Scott.
Another “Mr. Scott” well known for fictional space travels, actor James Doohan of the “Star Trek” TV series was born on March 3rd of 1920.
Another historic video was shot on March 3rd, 1991, when a man in Los Angeles filmed a police beating from his window. The beating of black driver Rodney King by white policemen touched off racial tensions, which led to riots in L.A. the following year when a jury acquitted the police officers.
February 27th in history:
Historians believe a speech by Abraham Lincoln on this day in 1860 gave him a major boost toward the presidency. Lincoln impressed an audience with an address at the Cooper Union hall in New York City, raising his national profile.
If Lincoln had not been shot during his second term, he could have run for as many terms as he liked. There was nothing in the Constitution to stop him — until February 27th, 1951, when the 22nd Amendment was ratified. That amendment was passed after Franklin Roosevelt was elected president four times. It says a president can be elected to no more than two terms — or just one full term, if he or she took over for another president who had served less than half a term.
February 27th is the birthday of two men who have run for president: consumer advocate Ralph Nader (1934) and former Texas Governor John Connally (1917). Also, the birthday of a recent White House resident, Chelsea Clinton (1980).
February 26th in history:
On February 26th, 1815, Napoleon Bonaparte escaped from exile on the island of Elba, off the coast of Italy. He soon returned to power in France before being defeated at Waterloo that same year.
Napoleon sold the Louisiana territory to the United States in 1803. Louisiana became the home of Dixieland music, and on this date in 1917, the Original Dixieland Jass Band made the first jazz recording for the Victor Company.
Musician Fats Domino, a New Orleans native, was born on February 26th, 1928. It’s also the birthday of Minnesota Fats from the movie The Hustler, Jackie Gleason (born 1916). Gleason’s most popular character was Brooklyn bus driver Ralph Kramden from “The Honeymooners.”
Jackie Gleason starred in the movie Gigot as a Frenchman who could not speak. French actor Jean Dujardin won the Best Actor Oscar on February 26th, 2012, for playing a star of silent films in the mostly-silent film The Artist. The French movie, shot in Hollywood, also won the Oscar for Best Picture.