Today in History

Today is Saturday, March 21, the 80th day of 2015. There are 285 days left in the year.

Today’s Highlights in History:

On March 21, 1965, civil rights demonstrators led by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. began their third, successful march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama. NASA launched Ranger 9, the last of the Ranger series of spacecraft sent to explore the moon.

On this date:

In 1556, Thomas Cranmer, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, was burned at the stake for heresy.

In 1685, composer Johann Sebastian Bach was born in Eisenach, Germany.

In 1804, the French civil code, or the “Code Napoleon” as it was later called, was adopted.

In 1925, Tennessee Gov. Austin Peay (pee) signed the Butler Act, which prohibited the teaching of the Theory of Evolution in public schools. (Tennessee repealed the law in 1967.)

In 1935, Persia officially changed its name to Iran.

In 1945, during World War II, Allied bombers began four days of raids over Germany.

In 1952, the Moondog Coronation Ball, considered the first rock and roll concert, took place at Cleveland Arena.

In 1960, about 70 people were killed in Sharpeville, South Africa, when police fired on black protesters.

In 1963, the Alcatraz federal prison island in San Francisco Bay was emptied of its last inmates and closed at the order of Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy.

In 1972, the Supreme Court, in Dunn v. Blumstein, ruled that states may not require at least a year’s residency for voting eligibility.

In 1985, police in Langa, South Africa, opened fire on blacks marching to mark the 25th anniversary of Sharpeville; the reported death toll varied between 29 and 43.

In 1990, Namibia became an independent nation as the former colony marked the end of 75 years of South African rule.

Ten years ago: A high school student on the Red Lake Indian reservation in Minnesota killed five schoolmates, a teacher and an unarmed guard before taking his own life; Jeff Weise had earlier killed his grandfather and his grandfather’s companion. Armed with a new law rushed through Congress and signed by President George W. Bush, the attorney for Terri Schiavo’s parents pleaded with a judge to order the brain-damaged woman’s feeding tube re-inserted. (The judge ended up refusing.) Ailing Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist returned to the Supreme Court bench to hear arguments despite his thyroid cancer. Cabaret singer Bobby Short died in New York City at age 80. Character actor Barney Martin, perhaps best known for playing Jerry Seinfeld’s father, died in Studio City, California, at age 82.

Five years ago: Frustrated with the pace of action to overhaul the country’s immigration system, thousands of immigrant rights supporters descended on the nation’s capital, waving American flags and holding homemade signs in English and Spanish. France’s long-flailing political left made a big comeback, crushing President Nicolas Sarkozy’s conservatives in regional elections.

One year ago: A federal judge ruled that Michigan’s ban on gay marriage was unconstitutional, striking down a law widely embraced by voters a decade earlier. (More than 300 same-sex couples in four Michigan counties wed the next day before an appeals court suspended the decision; two Detroit-area nurses are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the marriage ban.) Character actor James Rebhorn, 65, died in South Orange, New Jersey.

Today’s Birthdays: Violinist-conductor Joseph Silverstein is 83. Actress Kathleen Widdoes is 76. Folk-pop singer/musician Keith Potger (The Seekers) is 74. Actress Marie-Christine Barrault is 71. Singer-musician Rose Stone (Sly and the Family Stone) is 70. Actor Timothy Dalton is 69. Singer Eddie Money is 66. Rock singer-musician Roger Hodgson (Supertramp) is 65. Rock musician Conrad Lozano (Los Lobos) is 64. Rhythm-and-blues singer Russell Thompkins Jr. (The Stylistics) is 64. Comedy writer-performer Brad Hall is 57. Actress Sabrina LeBeauf is 57. Actor Gary Oldman is 57. Actor Matthew Broderick is 53. Comedian-talk show host Rosie O’Donnell is 53. Rock musician Jonas “Joker” Berggren (Ace of Base) is 48. Rock MC Maxim (Prodigy) is 48. Rock musician Andrew Copeland (Sister Hazel) is 47. Hip-hop DJ Premier (Gang Starr) is 46. Actress Laura Allen is 41. Rapper-TV personality Kevin Federline is 37. Actor Forrest Wheeler (TV: “Fresh Off the Boat”) is 11.

Thought for Today: “Never lose your temper with the press or the public is a major rule of political life.” – Dame Christabel Pankhurst, English suffragist (1880-1958).

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