December 12 in history:
The presidential election between George W. Bush and Al Gore was finally settled by the U.S. Supreme Court on December 12th, 2000…more than a month after the voting. The court decided 5-4 to accept Florida’s certification that Bush had won the state, giving him one more electoral vote over the 270 majority. That ruling came a few days after justices halted the Florida recount which showed Texas governor Bush and Vice President Gore only a few hundred votes apart.
Frank Sinatra knew a few presidents, including John Kennedy and Ronald Reagan, and in his later years, fans of the singer and actor knew Sinatra as “Chairman of the Board.” Sinatra was born in Hoboken, New Jersey on this date in 1915.
Like the Chairman of the Board, “The Boss” — singer Bruce Springsteen — also was born in New Jersey. During a concert on December 12th, 1975, Springsteen recorded a rock version of “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town,” which has become a popular holiday song on the radio. The concert was performed on the Long Island campus of C.W. Post College, named after the founder of Post Cereals.
The 1960’s TV cartoon show “Linus the Lionhearted” was based on characters from Post cereal boxes, with the title character, a lion king, voiced by actor Sheldon Leonard. The characters Sheldon and Leonard on the sitcom “The Big Bang Theory” are named after him. “Big Bang Theory” actress Mayim Bialik, who starred in the ’90s series “Blossom” and earned a PhD in neuroscience, was born December 12th, 1975.
September 25 in history:
On September 25th, 1513, explorer Vasco Nunez de Balboa became the first European to see the Pacific Ocean from the east, while traveling on the Isthmus of Panama. Balboa claimed the ocean for the king and queen of Spain.
On this date in 1981, Sandra Day O’Connor took office as the first female justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.
ABC was the first U.S. network to hire a woman to anchor the evening news, when it teamed Barbara Walters with Harry Reasoner in 1976. Walters was born on September 25th, 1929.
And the first weekly TV cartoon show about living celebrities debuted on ABC on September 25th, 1965. On “The Beatles” series, the animated adventures portrayed the band members as they looked in 1965. But during the four years that “The Beatles” aired on network TV, the show did take note of the band’s changes in appearance and musical styles.
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.
July 24 in history:
Someone’s in the kitchen with Nikita…and on July 24th, 1959, it was U.S. Vice-President Richard Nixon. He and Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev met in the kitchen area of an American home exhibit in Moscow and, through interpreters, debated eastern culture vs. western culture. The videotaped discussion became known as the “Kitchen Debate.”
Fifteen years later, Nixon had moved up to the job of president, but his presidency would soon come to an end. On July 24th of 1974, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Nixon would have to release secret tape recordings to the Watergate prosecutor. Nixon resigned shortly after the release of one tape showing that he wanted to use the CIA to block an FBI probe into Watergate.
In the 1999 Watergate comedy “Dick,” President Nixon was played by actor Dan Hedaya, born July 24th, 1940. Hedaya is better known as Nick Tortelli, the ex-husband of Carla on “Cheers” and its spin-off, “The Tortellis”.
During his 1968 campaign, Nixon made a brief appearance on the TV comedy show “Laugh-In,” saying “Sock it to me?” Ruth Buzzi was a “Laugh-In” cast member for the show’s entire six-season run. She was born on this date in 1936.
June 13th in history:
The “Pentagon Papers” appeared for the first time in the New York Times on June 13th, 1971. The papers were a classified report on American strategy in Vietnam. The Nixon administration said publication of the papers was treason, and tried to have it stopped. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that it was unconstitutional for the government to try to keep the documents out of the newspapers.
A Supreme Court ruling on June 13th, 1966, led to the famous phrase, “You have the right to remain silent.” In Miranda v. Arizona, the high court ruled that Ernesto Miranda should have been informed of his legal rights before he was questioned by police about a series of crimes.
One year later, in 1967, President Lyndon Johnson nominated Thurgood Marshall to the Supreme Court. Marshall was the first African-American justice, and for 24 years was the only African-American on the nine-member court.
In 1967, Paul Lynde already had started a long run with a popular group of nine, as a celebrity panelist on the game show “Hollywood Squares.” Lynde, born on June 13th, 1926, occupied the “center square” for most of his years on the show, while also appearing on “Bewitched” and his own comedy series.
Richard Thomas was the most famous of the seven kids on “The Waltons,” as the oldest son, John-Boy. Thomas was born on this date in 1951. And Ban Ki-moon, born June 13th, 1944, also belongs to a small select group. He was only the eighth secretary-general of the United Nations.
April 8th in history:
The Venus de Milo was discovered on this day in 1820, on the island of Milos. The famous armless statue of the goddess Venus is now displayed at the Louvre in Paris.
“April in Paris” was one of the famous songs written by lyricist “Yip” Harburg, born April 8th, 1896. Harburg is best known for the lyrics of “Over the Rainbow,” introduced by Judy Garland in “The Wizard of Oz.” Garland’s daughter, Liza Minnelli, starred in the movies “Cabaret” and “New York, New York,” both with music composed by Fred Ebb (born April 8th, year disputed).
It was somewhere over the left centerfield fence at Fulton County Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia that Hank Aaron’s 715th home run landed on April 8th, 1974. The Braves slugger broke Babe Ruth’s career record during Atlanta’s home opener of the season. Aaron eventually hit 755 homers…a record that stood until August of 2007, when Barry Bonds surpassed it.
Georgia native G. Harrold Carswell struck out as a Supreme Court nominee, by a 51-45 vote of the U.S. Senate on April 8th, 1970. Federal judge Carswell was Republican President Richard Nixon’s second straight Supreme Court nominee to be turned down by the Democratic-controlled Senate. Nixon blamed an anti-Southern bias for Carswell’s defeat. Carswell blamed liberals for opposing him, and later that month, he launched a campaign for the U.S. Senate from Florida to avenge the vote against him. He lost the Republican primary.
Neither Florida nor Georgia has ever ratified the 17th Amendment to the Constitution, allowing the popular election of U.S. Senators. On this date in 1913, Connecticut became the 36th state to approve the amendment, insuring its passage.
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.