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 8th in history:
Two U.S. presidents died on March 8th: Millard Fillmore in 1874, and William Howard Taft in 1930. Fillmore was not nominated for a second term by the Whigs in 1852, and finished third in the electoral vote in the 1856 election. Taft came in third in his 1912 re-election bid, behind Woodrow Wilson and Teddy Roosevelt. Taft served as Chief Justice for nine years, and retired just weeks before his death.
Charles De Gaulle was still president of France when construction began on an airport near Paris that would be named after him. De Gaulle International Airport opened eight years later, on this date in 1974.
Arthur Dent began his travels through the universe when the first episode of the radio show “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” was broadcast on the BBC on this date in 1978.
And March 8th is the birthday of the “Skipper” who led the S.S. Minnow on an infamous “three-hour tour.” Alan Hale of “Gilligan’s Island” was born on this date in 1921.
In its final season, “Gilligan’s Island” aired Monday nights on CBS, opposite “The Monkees” on NBC. Monkees singer and drummer Micky Dolenz was born March 8th, 1945.
January 20th in history:
John Marshall won a powerful job in the U.S. government on this date in 1801. Marshall was appointed Chief Justice. He led the Supreme Court for 34 years, serving under six presidents.
In 1937, January 20th became Inauguration Day in the U.S., the traditional day for the Chief Justice to swear in the newly-elected president. Before that year, presidents had to wait until March 4th to begin their terms.
England had a new king on January 20th, 1936, when King George the 5th died after a 25-year reign. His oldest son immediately became King Edward the 8th, but he abdicated before the year was done because of the furor over his intent to marry a divorced American woman.
And the artist nicknamed the “Line King,” Al Hirschfeld, died on January 20th, 2003. Hirschfeld was famous for his caricatures of Broadway and Hollywood celebrities. He died five months short of his 100th birthday. Long live the King!
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.