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. On December 5th, 1831, John Quincy Adams took office as a Congressman, two years after serving his single term in the White House. Adams was chosen as president by the U.S. House after the 1824 election, when he lost the popular vote to Andrew Jackson.
Al Gore won the popular vote in the 2000 presidential race, but lost in the Electoral College to George W. Bush. Gore’s father, long-time Tennessee Senator Albert Gore Sr., died on this date in 1998. George W. Bush served two terms as president, four years longer than his father, George Herbert Walker Bush…the most recent president defeated after a single term. A state funeral for the elder President Bush was held in Washington on December 5th, 2018.
The first single-term U.S. president who was not named “Adams” was Martin Van Buren, born on this day in 1782. Van Buren was the first U.S. president born after the signing of the Declaration of Independence.
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).
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.
September 13 in history:
New York City became the first official capital of the United States on September 13th, 1788. George Washington was sworn in as president there the following year. By 1790, the capital was moved to Philadelphia.
Margaret Chase Smith was a pioneer at the U.S. Capitol. Mrs. Smith had succeeded her late husband in the House, and on September 13th, 1948, she was elected to the U.S. Senate from Maine. That made her the first woman to be elected to both houses of Congress.
Maine was not a state yet during the War of 1812, so it was not represented on the “star-spangled banner” that flew over Ft. McHenry in Baltimore on this date in 1814. Francis Scott Key wrote his famous poem about the 15-star, 15-stripe flag that continued to fly over the fort after a British attack.
Lincoln and Booth were together every week in the ’60s…the 1960s. On your TV screen. Raymond Massey…famous for playing Abraham Lincoln on stage and film…portrayed Dr. Gillespie on “Dr. Kildare.” NBC followed “Kildare” on Thursday nights with “Hazel,” starring Shirley Booth. The two shows debuted on the same night in 1961, and remained together on the NBC schedule until “Hazel” moved to CBS in 1965. Both stars were born on August 30th…Massey in 1896, and Booth in 1898.
For much of the run of “Dr. Kildare,” “Lincoln” (Massey) was competing with “Steven Douglas” for Thursday night viewers. Fred MacMurray, born Aug. 30th, 1908, starred as Steve Douglas on “My Three Sons,” which was often scheduled on ABC opposite NBC’s “Kildare.”
One hundred years after Lincoln was president, a famous telephone was installed at the White House on August 30th, 1963. It was the first hotline between Washington and the Kremlin, designed to help communications between East and West and avoid international incidents. It wasn’t a direct phone line between the U.S. president and the Soviet leader. The Pentagon acted as a go-between.
George Washington got a message, a peace offer, from a British general on this date in 1776. General William Howe offered to let Washington and his army escape from Brooklyn Heights before a possible British attack. Washington rejected the offer, and sent it to the Continental Congress.