Today in 1818, the U.S. Congress decreed that the American flag should have 13 red and white stripes with 20 stars, with new stars added upon the admission of new states.
Today in 1841, one month after his inauguration, President William Henry Harrison died of pneumonia, which he contracted while delivering an almost two hour inauguration speech in the snow without a coat or hat. Why? To show off his masculinity. He became the first chief executive to die while in office. He was 68.
Today in 1887, Susanna Medora Salter became the first woman elected mayor of an American community – Argonia, Kansas.
Today 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).
Today in 1968, civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. was shot to death while standing on a balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. Just 39, his assassination 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. King’s family has supported that notion.
Today in 1974, Hank Aaron of the Atlanta Braves tied Babe Ruth’s home run record when he hit his 714th home run.
Today 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. Initially believed to be sabotage, mechanical failure was later confirmed as the cause.
Today in 1982,Wayne Gretzky became the first player in the NHL to score 200 points in a season.
actress Gloria Swanson died in New York at the age of 84.
Today in 1983, the space shuttle, Challenger, roared into orbit on its maiden voyage. Of course, it was destroyed in the disaster of January 1986.
Today in 1985, Tulane University cancelled its basketball season amidst a point-shaving scandal.
Today in 1988, the Arizona Senate convicted Gov. Evan Mecham 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.
Today in 1991, Senator John Heinz and six other people, including two children, were killed when a helicopter collided with his plane over a schoolyard in Merion, Pennsylvania.
Today in 1992, Bill Clinton campaign staffers acknowledged that he had received an induction notice in April 1969 while attending college in Oxford, England. Clinton said the notice arrived after he was due to report, and that his local draft board had told him he could complete the school term.
Today in 1999, the Colorado Rockies beat the San Diego Padres 8-to-2 in baseball's first season opener held in Mexico.
Today in 2008, the raid on the FLDS-owned YFZ Ranch in Texas took place. When it was over, 401 children and 133 women were taken into state custody. In November of that year, 12 FLDS men were charged with offenses related to alleged underage marriages conducted during the years since the sect built the YFZ Ranch.
Today in 2013, 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.
Today in 2017, a federal appeals court ruled for the first time that the 1964 Civil Rights Act protected LGBT employees from workplace discrimination in an 8-3 decision. The case concerned the allegations of an Indiana teacher who claimed that she wasn’t hired full-time solely because she was a lesbian.