January 8th in history:
Entertainment royalty born on January 8th includes “King of Rock and Roll” Elvis Presley (1935) and the “Thin White Duke,” David Bowie (1947). And Graham Chapman (1941) played King Arthur in “Monty Python and the Holy Grail”.
According to legend, many early Americans wanted George Washington to be a king, and he turned down the offer. As the first U.S. president, Washington delivered the first State of the Union message on January 8th, 1790.
The ocean liner Queen Mary 2 was christened on this date in 2004. It was the largest passenger ship ever built, up to that time.
January 5th in history:
George and Martha Washington never lived in the White House, but they were married at the “White House” in January of 1759. This White House was Martha’s plantation in Virginia. Sources disagree on what day the Washington wedding took place. Some say it was January 5th. Others say it was on the 6th, or the 17th. Martha became the first “First Lady” of the United States 30 years later.
Jane Wyman also married a future U.S. President, Ronald Reagan, but wasn’t married to him long enough to be a First Lady. When Reagan was president, Wyman was starring on TV in “Falcon Crest.” Her movie career included a Best Actress Oscar for the movie Johnny Belinda. Wyman was born January 5th, 1917.
Another Oscar winner born on this day is Diane Keaton (1946), the first of many ladies to earn an Academy Award for acting in a Woody Allen film (Annie Hall). Keaton’s credits include Reds and the Godfather movies. She also starred in a TV movie as Amelia Earhart, the first lady to fly solo across the Atlantic. Earhart was declared dead on this date in 1939, more than a year after she disappeared while trying to fly around the world.
And Nellie Tayloe Ross became America’s first “lady governor” when she was sworn in as governor of Wyoming on January 5th, 1925. Nellie had won a special election to succeed her husband, William Ross, who had died after an appendectomy.
December 25 in history:
Charlemagne was already King of the Franks when he was crowned the Emperor of Rome on December 25th of 800. Pope Leo III presided over the ceremony.
Another legendary king received his crown on this date in 1066. William the Conqueror became the Norman King after defeating the reigning king of England earlier that year.
The American colonies were fighting against King George III of England at Christmas of 1776, when General George Washington led a surprise attack against Hessian forces. On the night of December 25th, Washington and his troops made the famous crossing of the Delaware River from Pennsylvania into New Jersey.
Christmas is the birthday of the “King of Somewhere Hot,” the lord of “Margaritaville,” and leader of the Parrotheads. Singer Jimmy Buffett was born December 25th, 1946.
The first movie made from a Stephen King novel, Brian De Palma’s “Carrie,” made Sissy Spacek a star. A Christmas baby in 1949, Spacek won an Oscar for playing country music queen Loretta Lynn in “Coal Miner’s Daughter.”
In a way, “Twilight Zone” creator Rod Serling was the Stephen King of his day. Best known for hosting “Zone” and another spooky TV series, “Night Gallery,” Serling (born Christmas Day of 1924) made his reputation in the 1950’s for writing live TV dramas such as “Requiem for a Heavyweight.”
December 14 in history:
The last of the Apollo astronauts to walk on the moon blasted off from the lunar surface on December 14th, 1972. Eugene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt completed three walks outside the lunar lander during the 75 hours they spent on the moon as part of the Apollo 17 mission.
The Saturn rockets that launched men to the moon were developed at the Marshall Space Flight Center near Huntsville, Alabama. On this date in 1819, Alabama became the 22nd state to join the Union.
The Alabama state quarter issued by the U.S. Mint in 2003 features a portrait of author Helen Keller on the tail side. Actress Patty Duke, born Anna Marie Duke on December 14th, 1946, won an Oscar at age 16 for recreating her stage role as blind and deaf Helen in the movie, “The Miracle Worker.” She later starred as “identical cousins” on “The Patty Duke Show.” Prior to her death in 2016, Duke wrote and spoke widely about her experience with bipolar disorder.
Patty Duke played Martha Washington in the 1984 TV miniseries “George Washington.” On December 14th, 1799, George Washington died at his Virginia estate, Mount Vernon. Medical experts know that Washington had soreness and swelling in the throat, but some believe the doctors’ practice of bleeding hastened his death.
Another famous George who died on this date was Notre Dame football star George Gipp. He was 25 when he died on December 14th, 1920, apparently from a throat infection. Future U.S. president Ronald Reagan played Gipp in the 1940 movie “Knute Rockne, All American,” in which the character urged Coach Rockne to “win one for the Gipper.”
December 5 in history:
George Washington became America’s first two-term president in 1792. On December 5th that year, the Electoral College unanimously chose Washington to continue as president. John Adams was re-elected as vice president.
Adams and his son, John Quincy, both were one-term presidents. John Quincy Adams was voted out of the White House in 1828, but won a seat in the House of Representatives two years later. He took office as a Congressman on December 5th, 1831.
J.Q. Adams served in the House under five presidents, including Martin Van Buren, born on this day in 1782. Van Buren, also a one-term chief executive, was the first U.S. president born after 1776.
James K. Polk was Speaker of the House under President Van Buren. Polk also became president for just one term, and is credited with setting off the California gold rush during his last months in office. In his State of the Union message to Congress on December 5th, 1848, Polk announced that gold had been discovered in the California territory earlier that year, and he claimed that most male residents of the territory were busy searching for gold.
November 25 in history:
The British occupation of New York City, which began in 1776, ended on November 25th, 1783. That was several weeks after the Treaty of Paris was signed to end the American Revolution. New York became the capital of the U.S. for several years, through the inauguration of George Washington as president in 1789.
President Dwight Eisenhower had a stroke on this date in 1957. Although it was a minor stroke, the health scare was serious enough for the president to write a letter authorizing Vice President Richard Nixon to assume power, if Eisenhower was unable to carry out his duties. The crisis was one factor leading to the creation of the 25th Amendment, which also permits the appointment of a vice president if that office becomes vacant.
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.
October 16 in history:
“Antoinette, dainty queen, with her quaint guillotine…” That line from the musical “Damn Yankees” refers to France’s Marie Antoinette meeting her fate on this date in 1793. The queen was beheaded nine months after her husband, King Louis XVI.
The American colonies effectively cut themselves off from the King of England by winning the Revolutionary War. On October 16th, 1783, Army commander George Washington captured Yorktown, Virginia, in the final battle of the war.
The English once beheaded their own king, Charles I, in the 1600s and tried life without royalty for a few years. It didn’t stick, and the royal family returned during the Restoration. A popular novel about the Restoration, “Forever Amber,” was a best seller in the 1940s. “Amber” author Kathleen Winsor, born in 1919, shared an October 16th birthday with the actress who played the lead in the movie version of the novel, Linda Darnell (1923).