Today in History 2/20/20

Published 8:40 am Thursday, February 20, 2020

Today is Thursday, Feb. 20, the 51st day of 2020. There are 315 days left in the year.

Today’s Highlight in History:

On Feb. 20, 1962, astronaut John Glenn became the first American to orbit the Earth as he flew aboard Project Mercury’s Friendship 7 spacecraft, which circled the globe three times in a flight lasting 4 hours, 55 minutes and 23 seconds before splashing down safely in the Atlantic Ocean 800 miles southeast of Bermuda.

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On this date:

In 1792, President George Washington signed an act creating the United States Post Office Department.

In 1809, the Supreme Court ruled that no state legislature could annul the judgments or determine the jurisdictions of federal courts.

In 1862, William Wallace Lincoln, the 11-year-old son of President Abraham Lincoln and first lady Mary Todd Lincoln, died at the White House, apparently of typhoid fever.

In 1905, the U.S. Supreme Court, in Jacobson v. Massachusetts, upheld, 7-2, compulsory vaccination laws intended to protect the public’s health.

In 1942, Lt. Edward “Butch” O’Hare became the U.S. Navy’s first flying ace of World War II by shooting down five Japanese bombers while defending the aircraft carrier USS Lexington in the South Pacific.

In 1959, the Dow Jones industrial average closed above 600 for the first time, at 602.21.

In 1965, America’s Ranger 8 spacecraft crashed on the moon, as planned, after sending back thousands of pictures of the lunar surface.

In 1971, the National Emergency Warning Center in Colorado erroneously ordered U.S. radio and TV stations off the air; some stations heeded the alert, which was not lifted for about 40 minutes.

In 1987, a bomb left by Unabomber Ted Kaczynski exploded behind a computer store in Salt Lake City, seriously injuring store owner Gary Wright. Soviet authorities released Jewish activist Josef Begun.

In 1998, Tara Lipinski of the U.S. won the ladies’ figure skating gold medal at the Nagano Olympics; Michelle Kwan won the silver.

In 2003, a fire sparked by pyrotechnics broke out during a concert by the group Great White at The Station nightclub in West Warwick, R.I., killing 100 people and injuring about 200 others.

In 2007, in a victory for President George W. Bush, a divided federal appeals court ruled that Guantanamo Bay detainees could not use the U.S. court system to challenge their indefinite imprisonment.

Ten years ago: Alexander Haig, a soldier and statesman who’d held high posts in three Republican administrations and some of the U.S. military’s top jobs, died in Baltimore at 85. Floods and mudslides on the Portuguese island of Madeira claimed more than 40 lives.

Five years ago: Islamic State militants unleashed suicide bombings in eastern Libya, killing at least 40 people in what the group said was retaliation for Egyptian airstrikes against the extremists’ aggressive new branch in North Africa. Maureen McDonnell, the wife of former Virginia Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell, was sentenced to one year and 1 day in prison for her role in a bribery scheme that destroyed her husband’s political career.

One year ago: Police in Chicago said “Empire” actor Jessie Smollett was charged with making a false police report when he said he’d been attacked by two men who hurled racist and anti-gay slurs and looped a rope around his neck. (Prosecutors would drop the case in March.) College basketball star Zion Williamson was injured in the opening moments of Duke’s 88-72 loss to North Carolina after his Nike shoe came apart; Williamson suffered a mild knee sprain. Police in Syracuse, N.Y., said longtime Syracuse basketball coach Jim Boeheim struck and killed a man along an interstate highway as he tried to avoid hitting the man’s disabled vehicle; after an investigation, authorities filed no charges against Boeheim.

Today’s Birthdays: Actor Sidney Poitier is 93. Racing Hall of Famer Bobby Unser is 86. Racing Hall of Famer Roger Penske is 83. Singer-songwriter Buffy Sainte-Marie is 79. Hockey Hall of Famer Phil Esposito is 78. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., is 78. Movie director Mike Leigh is 77. Actress Brenda Blethyn is 74. Actress Sandy Duncan is 74. Actor Peter Strauss is 73. Rock musician Billy Zoom (X) is 72. Former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown is 69. Country singer Kathie Baillie is 69. Actor John Voldstad is 69. Newspaper heiress Patricia Hearst is 66. Actor Anthony Head is 66. Country singer Leland Martin is 63. Actor James Wilby is 62. Rock musician Sebastian Steinberg is 61. Comedian Joel Hodgson is 60. Basketball Hall of Famer Charles Barkley is 57. Rock musician Ian Brown (Stone Roses) is 57. Actor Willie Garson is 56. Actor French Stewart is 56. Actor Ron Eldard is 55. Model Cindy Crawford is 54. Actor Andrew Shue is 53. Actress Lili Taylor is 53. Actress Andrea Savage is 47. Singer Brian Littrell is 45. Actress Lauren Ambrose is 42. Actor Jay Hernandez is 42. Actress Chelsea Peretti is 42. Country musician Coy Bowles is 41. Actor Michael Zegen is 41. Actress Majandra Delfino is 39. Actor Jocko Sims is 39. Singer-musician Chris Thile is 39. Actress-singer Jessie Mueller is 37. MLB All-Star pitcher Justin Verlander is 37. Comedian Trevor Noah is 36. Actor Jake Richardson is 35. Actress Daniella Pineda is 33. Actor Miles Teller is 33. Singer Rihanna is 32. Actor Jack Falahee is 31.

Thought for Today: “Life begets life. Energy creates energy. It is by spending oneself that one becomes rich.” — Sarah Bernhardt, French actress (1844-1923).