Today in History

Today is Friday, Feb. 20, the 51st day of 2015. There are 314 days left in the year.

Today’s Highlight in History:

On Feb. 20, 1905, the U.S. Supreme Court, in Jacobson v. Massachusetts, upheld, 7-2, compulsory vaccination laws intended to protect the public’s health. (The case involved a Swedish immigrant, Henning Jacobson, who refused to pay a $5 fine for refusing to be vaccinated against smallpox; the Court upheld the right of states to penalize individuals who rejected vaccinations, but did not say they could be forcibly vaccinated.)

On this date:

In 1792, President George Washington signed an act creating the U.S. Post Office.

In 1862, William Wallace Lincoln, the 11-year-old son of President Abraham Lincoln and first lady Mary Todd Lincoln, died at the White House, apparently of typhoid fever.

In 1915, the Panama Pacific International Exposition opened in San Francisco (the fair lasted until December).

In 1938, Anthony Eden resigned as British foreign secretary following Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain’s decision to negotiate with Italian dictator Benito Mussolini.

In 1944, during World War II, U.S. strategic bombers began raiding German aircraft manufacturing centers in a series of attacks that became known as “Big Week.”

In 1950, the U.S. Supreme Court, in United States v. Rabinowitz, ruled 5-3 that authorities making a lawful arrest did not need a warrant to search and seize evidence in an area that was in the “immediate and complete control” of the suspect.

In 1962, astronaut John Glenn became the first American to orbit the Earth as he flew aboard Project Mercury’s Friendship 7 spacecraft.

In 1965, America’s Ranger 8 spacecraft crashed on the moon, as planned, after sending back thousands of pictures of the lunar surface.

In 1971, the National Emergency Warning Center in Colorado erroneously ordered U.S. radio and TV stations off the air; some stations heeded the alert, which was not lifted for about 40 minutes.

In 1987, a bomb left by Unabomber Ted Kaczynski exploded behind a computer store in Salt Lake City, seriously injuring store owner Gary Wright. Soviet authorities released Jewish activist Josef Begun.

In 1998, Tara Lipinski of the U.S. won the ladies’ figure skating gold medal at the Nagano Olympics; Michelle Kwan won the silver.

In 2003, a fire sparked by pyrotechnics broke out during a concert by the group Great White at The Station nightclub in West Warwick, Rhode Island, killing 100 people and injuring about 200 others.

Ten years ago: Israel’s Cabinet gave final approval to the government’s planned withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and four West Bank settlements. Former Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton traveled to Lampuuk, Indonesia, ground zero of tsunami devastation, where they promised survivors that more help would come. Jeff Gordon won his third Daytona 500. Allen Iverson was selected MVP of the NBA All-Star game, helping the Eastern Conference to a 125-115 victory. Death claimed actress Sandra Dee at age 62; musical actor John Raitt at age 88; and counterculture writer Hunter S. Thompson at age 67.

Five years ago: Alexander Haig, a soldier and statesman who’d held high posts in three Republican administrations and some of the U.S. military’s top jobs, died in Baltimore at 85. Floods and mudslides on the Portuguese island of Madeira claimed more than 40 lives.

One year ago: Protesters advanced on police lines in the heart of the Ukrainian capital of Kiev, prompting government snipers to shoot and kill scores of people. In Sochi, Canada beat the U.S. 3-2 in overtime to win its 4th straight Olympic women’s hockey gold. Adelina Sotnikova became Russia’s first gold medalist in women’s Olympic figure skating, defeating defending champion Yuna Kim of South Korea.

Today’s Birthdays: Gloria Vanderbilt is 91. Actor Sidney Poitier is 88. Racing Hall of Famer Bobby Unser is 81. Actress Marj Dusay is 79. Jazz-soul singer Nancy Wilson is 78. Racing Hall of Famer Roger Penske is 78. Singer-songwriter Buffy Sainte-Marie is 74. Hockey Hall-of-Famer Phil Esposito is 73. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., is 73. Movie director Mike Leigh is 72. Actress Brenda Blethyn is 69. Actress Sandy Duncan is 69. Rock musician J. Geils is 69. Actor Peter Strauss is 68. Rock singer-musician-producer Walter Becker (Steely Dan) is 65. Former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown is 64. Country singer Kathie Baillie is 64. Actor John Voldstad is 64. Newspaper heiress Patricia Hearst is 61. Actor Anthony Stewart Head is 61. Country singer Leland Martin is 58. Actor James Wilby is 57. Rock musician Sebastian Steinberg is 56. Comedian Joel Hodgson (HAHD’-suhn) is 55. Basketball Hall-of-Famer Charles Barkley is 52. Rock musician Ian Brown (Stone Roses) is 52. Actor Willie Garson is 51. Actor French Stewart is 51. Actor Ron Eldard is 50. Model Cindy Crawford is 49. Actor Andrew Shue is 48. Actress Lili Taylor is 48. Singer Brian Littrell is 40. Actress Lauren Ambrose is 37. Actor Jay Hernandez is 37. Actress Chelsea Peretti (TV: “Brooklyn Nine-Nine”) is 37. Country musician Coy Bowles is 36. Actress Majandra Delfino is 34. Singer-musician Chris Thile (THEE’-lee) is 34. Actress-singer Jessie Mueller is 32. Actor Jake Richardson is 30. Singer Rihanna is 27. Actor Jack Falahee (TV: “How to Get Away With Murder”) is 26.

Thought for Today: “The life of the nation is secure only while the nation is honest, truthful, and virtuous.” – Frederick Douglass, American abolitionist (born circa 1817, died this date in 1895).

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