Today in History

Today is Thursday, March 19, the 78th day of 2015. 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, however, 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.

On this date:

In 1687, French explorer Rene-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle – the first European to navigate the length of the Mississippi River – was murdered by mutineers in present-day Texas.

In 1863, the Confederate cruiser Georgiana, on its maiden voyage, was scuttled off Charleston, South Carolina, to prevent it from falling into Union hands.

In 1918, Congress approved daylight saving time.

In 1920, the Senate rejected, for a second time, the Treaty of Versailles 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.

In 1955, the inner-city school drama “Blackboard Jungle,” starring Glenn Ford, was released by MGM.

In 1965, the wreck of the Confederate cruiser Georgiana was discovered by E. Lee Spence, 102 years to the day after it had been scuttled.

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.

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.)

Ten years ago: 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.) Irina Slutskaya won the gold medal for the second time at the World Figure Skating Championships, held in Moscow; Sasha Cohen of the United States won the silver medal for the second straight year. Automaker John Z. DeLorean died in Summit, New Jersey, at age 80.

Five years ago: The White House released an online video of President Barack Obama making a fresh appeal directly to the people of Iran, saying a U.S. offer of diplomatic dialogue still stood, but that the Tehran government had chosen isolation.

One year 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.

Today’s Birthdays: Former White House national security adviser Brent Scowcroft is 90. Theologian Hans Kung is 87. Jazz musician Ornette Coleman is 85. Author Philip Roth is 82. Actress Renee Taylor is 82. Actress-singer Phyllis Newman is 82. Actress Ursula Andress is 79. Singer Clarence “Frogman” Henry is 78. Singer Ruth Pointer (The Pointer Sisters) is 69. Actress Glenn Close is 68. Film producer Harvey Weinstein is 63. Actor Bruce Willis is 60. Actress-comedian Mary Scheer is 52. Playwright Neil LaBute is 52. Actor Connor Trinneer is 46. Rock musician Gert Bettens (K’s Choice) is 45. Rapper Bun B is 42. Rock musician Zach Lind (Jimmy Eat World) is 39. Actress Abby Brammell is 36. Actor Craig Lamar Traylor is 26. Actor Philip Bolden is 20.

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).

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