Today in History

Today in History

Today is Tuesday, March 19, the 78th day of 2019. There are 287 days left in the year.

Today’s Highlight in History:

On March 19, 1945, during World War II, 724 people were killed when a Japanese dive bomber attacked the carrier USS Franklin off Japan (the ship was saved). Adolf Hitler ordered the destruction of German facilities that could fall into Allied hands in his so-called “Nero Decree,” which was largely disregarded.

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On this date:

In 1918, Congress passed the first law establishing daylight saving time in the United States, with clocks to be moved forward one hour from the last Sunday in March to the last Sunday in October. (This law was repealed in August 1919.)

In 1920, the Senate rejected, for a second time, the Treaty of Versailles (vehr-SY’) by a vote of 49 in favor, 35 against, falling short of the two-thirds majority needed for approval.

In 1931, Nevada Gov. Fred B. Balzar signed a measure legalizing casino gambling.

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In 1953, the Academy Awards ceremony was televised for the first time; “The Greatest Show on Earth” was named best picture of 1952.

In 1966, the Texas Western Miners defeated the heavily favored Kentucky Wildcats, 72-65, to win the NCAA Championship played in College Park, Maryland; making the contest especially noteworthy was that Texas Western became the first basketball team to start five black players in a national title game as it faced an all-white Kentucky squad. Texas Western is now the University of Texas at El Paso. The movie Glory Road was based on the event. 

In 1976, Buckingham Palace announced the separation of Princess Margaret and her husband, the Earl of Snowdon, after 16 years of marriage.

In 1979, the U.S. House of Representatives began televising its floor proceedings; the live feed was carried by C-SPAN (Cable-Satellite Public Affairs Network), which was making its debut.

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In 1987, televangelist Jim Bakker resigned as chairman of his PTL ministry organization amid a sex and money scandal involving Jessica Hahn, a former church secretary.

In 1993, Supreme Court Justice Byron R. White announced plans to retire. (White’s departure paved the way for Ruth Bader Ginsburg to become the court’s second female justice.)

In 2003, President George W. Bush ordered the start of war against Iraq. (Because of the time difference, it was early March 20 in Iraq.)

In 2005, Police in Citrus County, Florida, found the body of 9-year-old Jessica Lunsford, more than three weeks after she’d disappeared from her bedroom. (Convicted sex offender John Evander Couey was later sentenced to death for kidnapping, raping and burying Jessica alive; he died of natural causes in September 2009.)

In 2013, Pope Francis officially began his ministry as the 266th pope, receiving the ring symbolizing the papacy and a wool stole exemplifying his role as shepherd of his 1.2-billion strong flock during a Mass at the Vatican.

Ten years ago: An Austrian jury sentenced Josef Fritzl, 73, to life in a psychiatric ward for locking his daughter in a dungeon for 24 years, fathering her seven children and letting an eighth die in captivity as a newborn. Pope Benedict XVI, visiting Cameroon, told Muslim leaders that true religion rejected violence; the pontiff also held up peaceful coexistence between Christianity and Islam in the country as “a beacon to other African nations.”

Five years ago: In her first news conference as Federal Reserve chair, Janet Yellen said with the job market still weak, the Fed intended to keep short-term rates near zero for a “considerable” time and would raise them only gradually. Toyota agreed to pay $1.2 billion to settle an investigation by the U.S. government, admitting that it had hidden information about defects that caused Toyota and Lexus vehicles to accelerate unexpectedly, resulting in injuries and deaths. Robert Strauss, 95, a prominent Democratic party powerbroker and former U.S. ambassador to the Soviet Union, died in Washington. Former Iran-Contra chief prosecutor Lawrence E. Walsh, 102, died in Oklahoma City. Fred Phelps, founder of the Westboro Baptist Church that preached hatred of gay people, died at age 84.

One year ago: Speaking in New Hampshire, a state ravaged by opioids, President Donald Trump called for stiffer penalties for drug traffickers, including the death penalty. Former tennis star Martina Navratilova said she was “extremely angry” to learn that the BBC paid John McEnroe at least 10 times more than her for their broadcasting roles at Wimbledon. Former “Sex and the City” star Cynthia Nixon announced that she would challenge New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo in a Democratic primary in September. (Cuomo easily beat back the challenge.)

Today’s Birthdays: Former White House national security adviser Brent Scowcroft is 94. Actress Renee Taylor is 86. Actress-singer Phyllis Newman is 86. Actress Ursula Andress is 83. Singer Clarence “Frogman” Henry is 82. Singer Ruth Pointer (The Pointer Sisters) is 73. Actress Glenn Close is 72. Disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein is 67. Actor Bruce Willis is 64. Actress-comedian Mary Scheer is 56. Playwright Neil LaBute is 56. Actor Connor Trinneer is 50. Rock musician Gert Bettens (K’s Choice) is 49. Rapper Bun B is 46. Rock musician Zach Lind (Jimmy Eat World) is 43. Actress Virginia Williams is 41. Actress Abby Brammell is 40. MLB pitcher Clayton Kershaw is 31. Actor Craig Lamar Traylor is 30. Actor Philip Bolden is 24.

Thought for Today: “As a woman I have no country. As a woman my country is the whole world.” — Virginia Woolf, English author (1882-1941).