Today in History

Today is Friday, March 20, the 79th day of 2015. There are 286 days left in the year. Spring arrives at 6:45 p.m. EDT.

Today’s Highlight in History:

On March 20, 1995, in Tokyo, 12 people were killed, more than 5,500 others sickened when packages containing the deadly chemical sarin were leaked on five separate subway trains by Aum Shinrikyo cult members.

On this date:

In 1727, physicist, mathematician and astronomer Sir Isaac Newton died in London.

In 1815, Napoleon Bonaparte returned to Paris after escaping his exile on Elba, beginning his “Hundred Days” rule.

In 1852, Harriet Beecher Stowe’s influential novel about slavery, “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” was first published in book form after being serialized.

In 1899, Martha M. Place of Brooklyn, New York, became the first woman to be executed in the electric chair as she was put to death at Sing Sing for the murder of her stepdaughter.

In 1922, the decommissioned USS Jupiter, converted into the first U.S. Navy aircraft carrier, was recommissioned as the USS Langley.

In 1933, the state of Florida electrocuted Giuseppe Zangara for shooting to death Chicago Mayor Anton J. Cermak at a Miami event attended by President-elect Franklin D. Roosevelt, the presumed target, the previous February.

In 1952, the U.S. Senate ratified, 66-10, the Treaty of Peace with Japan.

In 1969, John Lennon married Yoko Ono in Gibraltar.

In 1974, Britain’s Princess Anne was the target of a kidnapping attempt near Buckingham Palace; the would-be abductor, Ian Ball, was captured. Former NBC News anchorman Chet Huntley, 62, died at his Montana home.

In 1985, Libby Riddles of Teller, Alaska, became the first woman to win the Iditarod Trail Dog Sled Race.

In 1990, singer Gloria Estefan suffered a broken back when a truck rear-ended her tour bus on a snow-covered highway in Pennsylvania. (Surgeons implanted titanium rods to stabilize her spine, and Estefan was able to make a comeback after months of intensive physical therapy.)

In 1999, Bertrand Piccard of Switzerland and Brian Jones of Britain became the first aviators to fly a hot-air balloon around the world nonstop as they floated over Mauritania past longitude 9 degrees west. (They landed safely in Egypt the next day.)

Ten years ago: A visibly frustrated Pope John Paul II made a brief but silent appearance at his Vatican apartment window after missing his first Palm Sunday Mass in 26 years as pontiff. Liz Johnson became the first woman to advance to the championship match of a Professional Bowlers Association tour event, but lost by 27 pins to Tommy Jones in the final of the PBA Banquet Open in Wyoming, Michigan.

Five years ago: Pope Benedict XVI sent an unprecedented letter to Ireland apologizing for chronic child abuse within the Roman Catholic church, but failed to calm anger of many victims. Thousands of protesters – many directing their anger squarely at President Barack Obama – marched through the nation’s capital to urge immediate withdrawal of troops from Iraq and Afghanistan. Former Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall died in Santa Fe, New Mexico, at 90. Lady Bird Johnson’s former press secretary, Liz Carpenter, died in Austin, Texas, at 89.

One year ago: President Barack Obama ordered economic sanctions against nearly two dozen members of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle and a major bank that provided them support, raising the stakes in an East-West showdown over Ukraine. Four gunmen opened fire in a crowded restaurant frequented by foreigners at the Serena Hotel in Kabul, Afghanistan, killing nine people.

Today’s Birthdays: Singer Dame Vera Lynn is 98. Producer-director-comedian Carl Reiner is 93. Actor Hal Linden is 84. Former Canadian prime minister Brian Mulroney is 76. Country singer Don Edwards is 76. TV producer Paul Junger Witt is 74. Country singer-musician Ranger Doug (Riders in the Sky) is 69. Hockey Hall-of-Famer Bobby Orr is 67. Blues singer-musician Marcia Ball is 66. Actor William Hurt is 65. Rock musician Carl Palmer (Emerson, Lake and Palmer) is 65. Rock musician Jimmie Vaughan is 64. Country musician Jimmy Seales (Shenandoah) is 61. Actress Amy Aquino is 58. Movie director Spike Lee is 58. Actress Theresa Russell is 58. Actress Vanessa Bell Calloway is 58. Actress Holly Hunter is 57. Rock musician Slim Jim Phantom (The Stray Cats) is 54. Actress-model-designer Kathy Ireland is 52. Actor David Thewlis is 52. Rock musician Adrian Oxaal (James) is 50. Actress Jessica Lundy is 49. Actress Liza Snyder is 47. Actor Michael Rapaport is 45. Actor Alexander Chaplin is 44. Rock singer Chester Bennington (Linkin Park) is 39. Actor Michael Genadry is 37. Actress Bianca Lawson is 36. Rock musician Nick Wheeler (The All-American Rejects) is 33. Actor Michael Cassidy is 32. Actress-singer Christy Carlson Romano is 31.

Thought for Today: “Every spring is the only spring, a perpetual astonishment.” – Ellis Peters (Edith Pargeter), British author (1913-1995)

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