On This Day October 20
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1950 – Rock and Roll Hall of Fame singer-songwriter Tom Petty of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers fame (“Breakdown,” “American Girl,” “Refugee,” “Don’t Do Me Like That,” “Here Comes My Girl,” “Don’t Come Around Here No More,” “Free Fallin”) (d. 2017)
1947 – In what comes to be known as the “Red Scare,” the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) opens hearings in Washington designed to expose communists in Hollywood. Many screenwriters, actors and directors are arrested and blacklisted by studio executives. Some would never work in Hollywood again.
1973 – As part of the so-called “Saturday Night Massacre,” President Richard Nixon fires U.S. Attorney General Elliot Richardson and Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus after they refuse to dismiss Watergate special prosecutor Archibald Cox.
1977 – A twin-engine plane carrying southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd (“Sweet Home Alabama,” “Free Bird”) crashes in a Mississippi swamp, killing lead singer Ronnie Van Zant, guitarist Steve Gaines, backup singer Cassie Gaines, a tour manager and both pilots.