Today in History

·5-min read

Today in History

Today is Tuesday, Aug. 31, the 243rd day of 2021. There are 122 days left in the year.

Today’s Highlight in History:

On Aug. 31, 1980, Poland’s Solidarity labor movement was born with an agreement signed in Gdansk (guh-DANSK’) that ended a 17-day-old strike.

On this date:

In 1886, an earthquake with an estimated magnitude of 7.3 devastated Charleston, South Carolina, killing at least 60 people, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

In 1939, the first issue of Marvel Comics, featuring the Human Torch, was published by Timely Publications in New York.

In 1972, at the Munich (MYOO’-nik) Summer Olympics, American swimmer Mark Spitz won his fourth and fifth gold medals in the 100-meter butterfly and 800-meter freestyle relay; Soviet gymnast Olga Korbut won gold medals in floor exercise and the balance beam.

In 1986, 82 people were killed when an Aeromexico jetliner and a small private plane collided over Cerritos, California. The Soviet passenger ship Admiral Nakhimov collided with a merchant vessel in the Black Sea, causing both to sink; up to 448 people reportedly died.

In 1992, white separatist Randy Weaver surrendered to authorities in Naples, Idaho, ending an 11-day siege by federal agents that had claimed the lives of Weaver’s wife, son and a deputy U.S. marshal. (Weaver was acquitted of murder and all other charges in connection with the confrontation; he was convicted of failing to appear for trial on firearms charges and was sentenced to 18 months in prison but given credit for 14 months he’d already served.)

In 1994, the Irish Republican Army declared a cease-fire. Russia officially ended its military presence in the former East Germany and the Baltics after half a century.

In 1996, three adults and four children drowned when their vehicle rolled into John D. Long Lake in Union, South Carolina; they had gone to see a monument to the sons of Susan Smith, who had drowned the two boys in Oct. 1994.

In 1997, Prince Charles brought Princess Diana home for the last time, escorting the body of his former wife to a Britain that was shocked, grief-stricken and angered by her death in a Paris traffic accident earlier that day.

In 2005, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin reported “a significant number of dead bodies in the water” following Hurricane Katrina; Nagin ordered virtually the entire police force to abandon search-and-rescue efforts and to instead stop increasingly hostile thieves.

In 2010, President Barack Obama ended the U.S. combat mission in Iraq, declaring no victory after seven years of bloodshed and telling those divided over the war in his country and around the world: “It is time to turn the page.”

In 2018, Aretha Franklin, the “Queen of Soul,” was laid to rest after an eight-hour funeral at a Detroit church, where guests included Bill and Hillary Clinton, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, Stevie Wonder and Smokey Robinson.

In 2019, a gunman carried out a shooting rampage that stretched ten miles between the Texas communities of Midland and Odessa, leaving seven people dead before police killed the gunman outside a movie theater in Odessa.

Ten years ago: The Wartime Contracting Commission issued a report saying the U.S. had lost billions of dollars to waste and fraud in Iraq and Afghanistan and stood to repeat that in future wars without big changes in how the government awarded and managed contracts for battlefield support and reconstruction projects.

Five years ago: On Mexican soil for the first time as the Republican presidential nominee, a firm but measured Donald Trump defended the right of the United States to build a massive border wall along its southern flank, standing up for the centerpiece of his immigration plan during a joint press conference with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto. The first commercial flight between the United States and Cuba in more than a half century, a JetBlue Airbus A320, landed in the central city of Santa Clara, re-establishing regular air service severed at the height of the Cold War. Brazil’s Senate voted to remove President Dilma Rousseff from office. (Rousseff was accused of breaking fiscal laws in her management of the federal budget.)

One year ago: At a rally in Pittsburgh, Democrat Joe Biden resoundingly condemned violent protesters and called for their prosecution; he accused President Donald Trump of causing the divisions that had ignited the violence. Trump reiterated that he blamed radical troublemakers who he said were stirred up and backed by Biden. The U.S. Open, the first Grand Slam tennis event in nearly six months, began in New York with no fans in attendance because of the pandemic. The family of John Thompson announced that the former Georgetown University basketball coach had died at the age of 78; he was the first Black coach to lead a team to the NCAA men’s championship. Police in Rwanda announced the arrest on terrorism charges of Paul Rusesabagina, who’d been portrayed in the film “Hotel Rwanda” as a hero who saved the lives of more than 1,200 people from the country’s 1994 genocide. The Federal Aviation Administration said it had granted Amazon approval to deliver packages by drones; Amazon said it was still testing and flying the drones.

Today’s Birthdays: Rock musician Jerry Allison (Buddy Holly and the Crickets) is 82. Actor Jack Thompson is 81. Violinist Itzhak Perlman is 76. Singer Van Morrison is 76. Rock musician Rudolf Schenker (The Scorpions) is 73. Actor Richard Gere is 72. Actor Stephen Henderson is 72. Olympic gold medal track and field athlete Edwin Moses is 66. Rock singer Glenn Tilbrook (Squeeze) is 64. Rock musician Gina Schock (The Go-Go’s) is 64. Singer Tony DeFranco (The DeFranco Family) is 62. R&B musician Larry Waddell (Mint Condition) is 58. Actor Jaime P. Gomez is 56. Rock musician Jeff Russo (Tonic) is 52. Singer-composer Deborah Gibson is 51. Actor Zack Ward is 51. Golfer Padraig (PAH’-drig) Harrington is 50. Actor Chris Tucker is 49. Actor Sara Ramirez is 46. R&B singer Tamara (Trina & Tamara) is 44.

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