Today in History

Today is Tuesday, Dec. 23, the 357th day of 2014. There are eight days left in the year.

Today’s Highlight in History:

On Dec. 23, 1954, the first successful human kidney transplant took place at the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital in Boston as a surgical team led by Dr. Joseph Murray removed a kidney from 23-year-old Ronald Herrick and implanted it in Herrick’s twin brother, Richard, who was dying of chronic nephritis. (Because the donor and recipient were identical twins, tissue rejection was not an issue. Richard Herrick lived until 1962; Ronald Herrick died in 2010.)

On this date:

In 1788, Maryland passed an act to cede an area “not exceeding ten miles square” for the seat of the national government; about 2/3 of the area became the District of Columbia.

In 1823, the poem “Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas” was published anonymously in the Troy (N.Y.) Sentinel; the verse, more popularly known as “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas,” was later attributed to Clement C. Moore.

In 1893, the Engelbert Humperdinck opera “Haensel und Gretel” was first performed, in Weimar, Germany.

In 1913, the Federal Reserve System was created as President Woodrow Wilson signed the Federal Reserve Act.

In 1928, the National Broadcasting Company set up a permanent, coast-to-coast network.

In 1933, President Franklin D. Roosevelt restored the civil rights of about 1,500 people who’d been jailed for opposing the (First) World War.

In 1941, during World War II, American forces on Wake Island surrendered to the Japanese.

In 1948, former Japanese premier Hideki Tojo and six other Japanese war leaders were executed in Tokyo.

In 1953, the Soviet Union announced the execution of Lavrentiy Beria, former head of the secret police, for treason.

In 1968, 82 crew members of the U.S. intelligence ship Pueblo were released by North Korea, 11 months after they had been captured.

In 1972, in football’s “Immaculate Reception,” Franco Harris of the Pittsburgh Steelers caught a pass thrown by Terry Bradshaw and scored a touchdown after the ball was deflected during a collision between Jack Tatum of the Oakland Raiders and the Steelers’ John Fuqua; the Steelers won, 13-7.

In 1986, the experimental airplane Voyager, piloted by Dick Rutan and Jeana Yeager, completed the first non-stop, non-refueled round-the-world flight as it returned safely to Edwards Air Force Base in California.

Ten years ago: Democrat Christine Gregoire won the Washington governor’s race over Republican Dino Rossi by 130 votes out of 2.9 million ballots cast, according to final recount results announced from Seattle’s King County. Former Connecticut Gov. John G. Rowland pleaded guilty to a corruption charge (he was later sentenced to a year and a day in federal prison; he served 10 months). Assailants claiming to be members of a revolutionary group opposed to the death penalty ambushed a bus in Honduras, killing 28 people, including six children. Two men were convicted in Houston for their role in a smuggling attempt that resulted in the deaths of 19 illegal immigrants crammed in a tractor-trailer. (Fredy Giovanni Garcia-Tobar was later sentenced to 15 years in prison; Victor Jesus Rodriguez, to 20 years and seven months.)

Five years ago: Richard and Mayumi Heene (HEE’-nee), the parents who’d pulled the “balloon boy” hoax in hopes of landing a reality TV show, were sentenced by a judge in Fort Collins, Colorado, to jail (90 days for him, 20 days for her). Gary Patterson, who’d guided TCU to its best season in 70 years, became the first Associated Press Coach of the Year from outside the six conferences with automatic BCS bids. Yitzhak Ahronovitch, captain of the Exodus during a 1947 attempt to take Holocaust survivors to Palestine, died in northern Israel at age 86.

One year ago: The last two imprisoned members of the Russian punk band Pussy Riot (Maria Alekhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova) were given amnesty and set free after spending nearly two years in prison for a protest at Moscow’s main cathedral. Auburn’s Gus Malzahn was honored as The Associated Press national coach of the year. Mikhail Kalashnikov, 94, designer of the AK-47 assault rifle, died in Izhevsk, Russia.

Today’s Birthdays: Former German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt is 96. Actor Gerald S. O’Loughlin is 93. Actor Ronnie Schell is 83. Emperor Akihito of Japan is 81. Pro and College Football Hall of Famer Paul Hornung is 79. Actor Frederic Forrest is 78. Actor James Stacy is 78. Rock musician Jorma Kaukonen is 74. Rock musician Ron Bushy is 73. Actor-comedian Harry Shearer is 71. U.S. Army Gen. Wesley K. Clark (ret.) is 70. Actress Susan Lucci is 68. Singer-musician Adrian Belew is 65. Rock musician Dave Murray (Iron Maiden) is 58. Actress Joan Severance is 56. Singer Terry Weeks is 51. Rock singer Eddie Vedder (Pearl Jam) is 50. The former first lady of France, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, is 47. Rock musician Jamie Murphy is 39. Jazz musician Irvin Mayfield is 37. Actress Estella Warren is 36. Actress Anna Maria Perez de Tagle (TAG’-lee) is 24. Actor Spencer Daniels (TV: “Mom”) is 22.

Thought for Today: “If you want to do things, do things.” — Grace Paley, American writer (1922-2007).

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