On This Day March 21

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On this Day June 11

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History Highlights
History Highlights

1944 – Lieutenant John F. Kennedy receives the prestigious Navy and Marine Corps Medal in recognition of his heroic, life-saving actions as a gunboat pilot during World War II. Kennedy, who goes on to become America’s 35th president, also receives a Purple Heart for wounds sustained in battle. He is the only president to have earned either of those high honors.

1955 – Carnage at Le Mans, as an Austin-Healey and Mercedes-Benz collide, showering flaming wreckage onto spectators. Eighty-two people are killed and at least 100 injured in one of auto racing’s worst accidents.

1962 – Frank Morris, John Anglin and Clarence Anglin become the only prisoners to successfully escape from Alcatraz prison. No one ever saw or heard from them again, although there were multiple unconfirmed sightings over the years.

1967 – The Six-Day War between Israel and its Arab neighbors ends with a United Nations-brokered ceasefire. That November, the U.N. Security Council adopts a resolution establishing a formula for Arab-Israeli peace whereby Israel would withdraw from territories occupied in the war in exchange for peace with its neighbors.

1963 – An outspoken opponent of school desegregation, Alabama Governor George Wallace physically blocks two African American students from entering the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. President John F. Kennedy responds by federalizing the Alabama National Guard and ordering troops to escort the students to their classes. Wallace then steps aside, but that evening, Kennedy delivers a national address about segregation regarded by many historians as one of the turning points in the civil rights movement.

1977 – MLK assassin James Earl Ray escapes from Brushy Mountain State Prison in Tennessee, but is recaptured three days later.

1979 – Cancer claims the life of screen legend John Wayne (“El Dorado,” “Rio Bravo,” “True Grit,” “The Comancheros”) at the age of 72.

1982 –  Steven Spielberg’s “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” opens in U.S. theaters and becomes a box office bonanza. The movie launches the career of actress Drew Barrymore, and in 1994, is selected for preservation in the National Film Registry for being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.” 

1986 – “Bueller… Bueller…” The now-classic John Hughes film, “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” starring Matthew Broderick, Alan Ruck and Mia Sara, opens in U.S. theaters.

On this Day May 4

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History Highlights
History Highlights

1932 – Mobster Al Capone begins serving an 11-year sentence for income tax evasion in a federal prison in Atlanta.

1961 – Civil rights activists calling themselves the “Freedom Riders” decide to test a recent Supreme Court decision prohibiting racial segregation in interstate travel. They set out on a dangerous journey aboard buses from Washington, D.C. through the Deep South to New Orleans, defying segregated restrooms, restaurants and bus station waiting areas along the way.

1970 – Four students are killed, nine others wounded when National Guard troops open fire during a Vietnam War protest at Kent State University in Ohio. Guardsmen fire 67 rounds in 13 seconds. The tragedy sends shockwaves across the U.S. and around the world.

1977 – British journalist David Frost sits down with former President Richard Nixon for the first of four revealing television interviews. Nixon apologizes for putting “the American people through two years of needless agony” during the Watergate scandal.

1979 – Britain’s Conservative Party leader, Margaret Thatcher, becomes that nation’s first female prime minister.

2008 – The term “May the 4th be with you,” a tribute to the popular Star Wars phrase, “May the force be with you,” becomes a part of pop culture as it begins to be used among members of Star Wars-related Facebook groups that turn it into a celebration of the beloved sci-fi franchise. In 2011 and 2012, Star Wars Day is observed by fans in Toronto during a festival that draws significant media coverage. In 2013, just months after purchasing Lucasfilm, Disney officially recognizes May 4 as Star Wars Day, and its marketing of new movies, TV shows and merchandise continues to explode today.

Musical Milestones
Musical Milestones

1959 – The National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences presents the first Grammy Awards with ceremonies held simultaneously in New York and Los Angeles. Among the awards handed out, “Nel Blu Dipinto Di Blu” (better known as “Volare”) wins both song and record of the year for composer Domenico Modugno.

1968 – Bobby Goldsboro is in the middle of a five-week run on top of the Billboard Hot 100 with “Honey.”

1973 – Led Zeppelin opens its 1973 North American tour in Atlanta. Billed as “the biggest and most profitable rock & roll tour in the history of the United States,” the group would gross more than $4 million from it.

1974 – The soundtrack to the motion picture “The Sting,” featuring Marvin Hamlisch’s interpretation of ragtime music by Scott Joplin, begins a five-week run at No. 1 on the album chart.

1974 – Grand Funk Railroad chugs its way to the top of the Billboard singles chart with “The Loco-Motion.”

1985 – “We Are The World,” the musical collaboration produced under the baton of Quincy Jones as a fundraiser for African famine relief, begins its fourth and final week as a chart-topper.

1990 – Madonna kicks off the North American leg of her 57-date Blond Ambition World Tour with a performance in Houston, Texas at The Summit (now Lakewood Church). Years later, Rolling Stone magazine would call the tour “the Greatest Concert of the 1990s.”

2002 – Ashanti has the No. 1 single in the U.S. with “Foolish.” The single remains on top of the pop chart for 10 weeks.