March 9th in history:
On March 9th, 1965, more than two thousand civil rights demonstrators led by Martin Luther King Jr. marched to the Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama for the second time in three days. State troopers had physically attacked marchers on March 7th, to keep them from crossing the bridge on a trek from Selma to the state capital of Montgomery. The March 9th demonstration ended with the group turning back at the bridge because of a court order blocking the march. The full march to Montgomery was permitted later that month.
The “original” Martin Luther earned a bachelor’s degree in Bible studies on this date in 1508, a year after becoming a Catholic priest. Five years later, on March 9th, 1513, the pope who would eventually excommunicate Luther was elected. Giovanni de Medici took the papal name Leo X.
The shout “Attaboy, Luther!” is a running joke in the Don Knotts comedy “The Ghost and Mr. Chicken,” written by Jim Fritzell and Everett Greenbaum. Fritzell was only 59 when he died on this date in 1979. He and Greenbaum worked as a writing team for decades, contributing to many popular TV series including “The Andy Griffith Show,” “Mister Peepers,” “Sanford and Son,” and “M*A*S*H.”
December 11 in history:
It was not the title speech given in the movie The King’s Speech, but King Edward VIII’s abdication speech was an important moment in the film, and in British history. On December 11th, 1936, Edward took to the radio to explain to his subjects why he was stepping down after less than a year on the throne: to marry the woman he loved, a divorced American named Wallis Simpson. Many government leaders, including the prime minister, strongly opposed the king’s plans to wed Mrs. Simpson.
King gave a speech in Oslo, Norway on December 11th, 1964: Martin Luther King, Jr., that is. Dr. King presented a lecture on “The Quest for Peace and Justice” one day after formally accepting the 1964 Nobel Peace Prize.
And now, the award for outstanding Supporting Actress born on December 11th. The nominees are:
Betsy Blair (born 1923), for Marty,
Rita Moreno (1931), for West Side Story,
Teri Garr (birth year uncertain), for Tootsie,
Mo’Nique (1967), for Precious, and…
Hailee Steinfeld (1996), for True Grit.
And the Oscar for Supporting Actress went to…(drumroll)…Moreno in 1962 and Mo’Nique in 2010.
December 1 in history:
Henry Ford introduced the first moving assembly line for making cars on this date in 1913. The assembly line process allowed Ford workers to put together a Model T in just over two hours.
The Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan, includes a city bus from Montgomery, Alabama which was the scene of a historic protest on December 1st, 1955. Forty-two-year-old Rosa Parks was arrested while riding on that bus, for disobeying a law requiring black passengers to move to seats in the back of a bus if there were white passengers waiting to sit down in the front. A year-long boycott of the Montgomery bus system began after her arrest, which led to an ordinance ending segregation on that city’s buses. Parks became a revered figure in the civil rights movement because of the protest, as did a boycott organizer named Martin Luther King Jr.
Comedian Chris Rock has called Richard Pryor “the Rosa Parks of comedy,” for taking risks that would break ground for future performers. Pryor turned 15 on the day of the Parks arrest.
Early in his career, Pryor occasionally opened for Woody Allen, who served as a mentor to him. Allen went from being a TV joke-writer to a successful stand-up comic, and eventually a movie actor, writer, and director, best known for the 1977 Oscar winner “Annie Hall.” Woody was born December 1st, 1935, and shares a birthday with actress and singer Bette Midler (1945), who played his wife in the Paul Mazursky film “Scenes from a Mall.” Midler’s other movies include “The Rose,” “Beaches,” and “Ruthless People,” and she has won four Grammy Awards for her records.
August 28 in history:
The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom drew about 200,000 people to Washington, D.C. on August 28th, 1963. The March is remembered as the occasion when Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his “I have a dream” speech to the crowd gathered in front of the Lincoln Memorial.
Forty-five years later, on August 28th, 2008, presidential candidate Barack Obama referred to King’s speech at the Lincoln Memorial during his own acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention. The outdoor speech was given at Invesco Field (now Sports Authority Field) at Mile High, the home stadium of the Denver Broncos.
In 2013, Quvenzhané Wallis became the youngest African-American to receive an Oscar nomination for acting and the youngest person ever nominated for the Best Actress Oscar, for her role in “Beasts of the Southern Wild.” Wallis was born on this day in 2003.
Berry Gordy Jr. had a dream of running a record company. Gordy’s company Motown released “Please Mr. Postman” by the Marvelettes on this day in 1961. It would become Motown’s first number-one record.
Michael Jackson was one of the most successful artists on Motown Records. In 1984, Jackson starred in TV commercials for a soft drink which got its current name on August 28th, 1898. North Carolina druggist Caleb Bradham had invented a beverage he called “Brad’s Drink,” but in 1898, he renamed it “Pepsi-Cola.”
August 21 in history:
The first Lincoln-Douglas debate took place in Ottawa, Illinois on August 21st, 1858. Abraham Lincoln was running against incumbent Senator Stephen Douglas, and their seven debates around Illinois all dealt with the issue of slavery.
The outside wall of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. lists the names of the 48 states that were in the Union when the memorial was dedicated in 1922. Two more states came along in 1959, Alaska and Hawaii. On this date in ’59, President Dwight Eisenhower signed the law making Hawaii the 50th state.
Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his famous “I have a dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial in August of 1963. A few days earlier, on August 21st of that year, King tried out the “I have a dream” theme during a speech to an insurance association convention in Chicago.
During this week in 1963, Chicago native Allan Sherman had a top 10 hit with his novelty song “Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah! (A Letter From Camp),” in which a kid writes home about his awful experiences at “Camp Granada.” Before becoming famous by doing song parodies, Sherman produced the Goodson-Todman game show “I’ve Got a Secret.” “Hello, Muddah” was based on camp letters from Sherman’s son Robert, who followed in his dad’s footsteps by also producing shows for Goodson-Todman.
While Sherman’s letter-writing kid was suffering at Camp Granada in 1963, Johnny Castle and Baby Houseman were spending time together that summer at Kellerman’s resort in the Catskills, according to the movie “Dirty Dancing,” released on August 21st, 1987. “Dirty Dancing” premiered on the 63rd birthday of actor Jack Weston, who played resort owner Max Kellerman in the film.
June 10th in history:
On June 10th, 1978, Affirmed won the last leg of the Triple Crown on the Belmont race track. Affirmed became the third horse to capture the Triple Crown in six years…and would be the last horse to achieve that feat until American Pharoah in 2015.
The man convicted of killing Martin Luther King, Jr., James Earl Ray, was among seven inmates who hit the road on June 10th, 1977, when they escaped from a Tennessee prison. The fugitives were recaptured three days later.
The popular TV series “The Fugitive” told the story of a doctor who escaped from police after being falsely convicted of killing his wife. Barry Morse, who played Lt. Gerard, the police lieutenant “obsessed with his capture,” was born on this date in 1918. Viewers of “The Fugitive” have suggested that the show may have been based on the case of Dr. Sam Sheppard, who was tried twice for murdering his wife. Defense attorney F. Lee Bailey became famous for winning an acquittal for Sheppard at the second trial. Bailey was born June 10th, 1933.
It’s the birthday of yellow-brick-road traveler Judy Garland (1922), and two men who wrote famous “street” songs. Al Dubin (1891) wrote the lyrics to both “42nd Street” and “Lullaby of Broadway.” And Frederick Loewe (1901) wrote the music for “On the Street Where You Live” from “My Fair Lady.”
April 4th in history:
That line from the U2 song “Pride (In the Name of Love)” refers to the murder of Martin Luther King, Jr. on April 4th, 1968. King was shot while standing on a balcony at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, during a visit to support African-American garbage workers who were on strike. The U2 song lyric is inaccurate, because the shooting happened around 6 p.m. In recent years, U2 lead singer Bono has changed the lyrics in live performances to “Early evening, April 4.”
News coverage of the King shooting disrupted regular TV programs in the U.S. that Thursday night, including “Bewitched.” April 4th is the birthday of David White (1916), who played Darrin’s boss Larry Tate on “Bewitched.” White’s family was touched by tragedy when his son Jonathan died in the 1988 bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland.
“Psycho” star Anthony Perkins, born on April 4th, 1932, was married for nearly 20 years to another person who died in a terrorist attack on an airplane. Model and actress Berry Berenson Perkins was aboard the first plane which hit the World Trade Center on September 11th, 2001.
Coincidentally, the ribbon-cutting ceremony to open the World Trade Center happened on this date in 1973.