Today in History

Published 12:01 am Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Today is Wednesday, April 4, the 94th day of 2018. There are 271 days left in the year.

Today’s Highlight in History:

On April 4, 1968, civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., 39, was shot and killed while standing on a balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee; his slaying was followed by a wave of rioting (Washington, D.C., Baltimore and Chicago were among cities particularly hard hit). Suspected gunman James Earl Ray later pleaded guilty to assassinating King, then spent the rest of his life claiming he’d been the victim of a setup.

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On this date:

In 1818, Congress decided the flag of the United States would consist of 13 red and white stripes and 20 stars, with a new star to be added for every new state of the Union.

In 1841, President William Henry Harrison succumbed to pneumonia one month after his inaugural, becoming the first U.S. chief executive to die in office.

In 1859, “Dixie” was performed publicly for the first time by Bryant’s Minstrels at Mechanics’ Hall in New York.

In 1864, President Abraham Lincoln, in a letter to Kentucky newspaper editor Albert G. Hodges, wrote: “I claim not to have controlled events, but confess plainly that events have controlled me.”

In 1917, the U.S. Senate voted 82-6 in favor of declaring war against Germany (the House followed suit two days later by a vote of 373-50).

In 1933, the Navy airship USS Akron crashed in severe weather off the New Jersey coast with the loss of 73 lives.

In 1949, 12 nations, including the United States, signed the North Atlantic Treaty in Washington, D.C.

In 1958, Johnny Stompanato, an enforcer for crime boss Mickey Cohen and the boyfriend of actress Lana Turner, was stabbed to death by Turner’s teenage daughter, Cheryl Crane, who said Stompanato had attacked her mother.

In 1975, more than 130 people, most of them children, were killed when a U.S. Air Force transport plane evacuating Vietnamese orphans crash-landed shortly after takeoff from Saigon. Microsoft was founded by Bill Gates and Paul Allen in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

In 1983, the space shuttle Challenger roared into orbit on its maiden voyage. (It was destroyed in the disaster of January 1986.)

In 1988, the Arizona Senate convicted Gov. Evan Mecham (MEE’-kuhm) of two charges of official misconduct, and removed him from office; Mecham was the first U.S. governor to be impeached and removed from office in nearly six decades.

In 1991, Sen. John Heinz, R-Pa., and six other people, including two children, were killed when a helicopter collided with Heinz’s plane over a schoolyard in Merion, Pennsylvania.

Ten years ago: Texas authorities started removing the first of more than 400 girls from a compound built by a polygamist sect. Lisa Montgomery was sentenced to death in Kansas City, Missouri, for killing Bobbie Jo Stinnett (STIN’-net), a mother-to-be, and cutting the surviving baby from her womb. (Montgomery remains on death row.) Pirates seized the French luxury yacht Le Ponant and its 30 crew members off the coast of Somalia. (The crew was released a week later; six alleged pirates ended up being captured.) Beyonce and Jay-Z were married during a private ceremony in New York.

Five years ago: Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy signed into law sweeping new restrictions on weapons and large capacity ammunition magazines similar to the ones used by the young man who gunned down 20 children and six educators in the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre. At least 72 people were killed in the collapse of an eight-story residential building being constructed illegally near Mumbai, India’s financial capital. Pulitzer Prize-winning film reviewer Roger Ebert, 70, died in Chicago.

One year ago: A chemical attack on an opposition-held town in northern Syria left about 100 people dead; a joint investigation team made up of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and U.N. experts concluded that the Syrian government was responsible. A federal appeals court ruled for the first time that the 1964 Civil Rights Act protected LGBT employees from workplace discrimination; the 8-3 decision by the full 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago concerned the case of an Indiana teacher who charged that she wasn’t hired full-time because she was a lesbian.

Today’s Birthdays: Former Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., is 86. Recording executive Clive Davis is 86. Author Kitty Kelley is 76. Actor Craig T. Nelson is 74. Actor Walter Charles is 73. Actress Christine Lahti is 68. Country singer Steve Gatlin (The Gatlin Brothers) is 67. Actress Mary-Margaret Humes is 64. Writer-producer David E. Kelley is 62. Actress Constance Shulman is 60. Actor Phil Morris is 59. Actress Lorraine Toussaint is 58. Actor Hugo Weaving is 58. Rock musician Craig Adams (The Cult) is 56. Talk show host/comic Graham Norton is 55. Actor David Cross is 54. Actor Robert Downey Jr. is 53. Actress Nancy McKeon is 52. Actor Barry Pepper is 48. Country singer Clay Davidson is 47. Rock singer Josh Todd (Buckcherry) is 47. Singer Jill Scott is 46. Rock musician Magnus Sveningsson (The Cardigans) is 46. Magician David Blaine is 45. Singer Kelly Price is 45. Rhythm-and-blues singer Andre Dalyrimple (Soul For Real) is 44. Country musician Josh McSwain (Parmalee) is 43. Actor James Roday is 42. Actress Natasha Lyonne is 39. Actor Eric Andre is 35. Actress Amanda Righetti is 35. Actress-singer Jamie Lynn Spears is 27. Actress Daniela Bobadilla is 25. Pop singer Austin Mahone (muh-HOHN’) is 22.