Today in history


Today is Tuesday, Dec. 31, the 365th and final day of 2019.

Today’s Highlight in History:

On Dec. 31, 1986, 97 people were killed when fire broke out in the Dupont Plaza Hotel in San Juan, Puerto Rico. (Three hotel workers later pleaded guilty in connection with the blaze.)

On this date:

In 1775, during the Revolutionary War, the British repulsed an attack by Continental Army generals Richard Montgomery and Benedict Arnold at Quebec; Montgomery was killed.

In 1879, Thomas Edison first publicly demonstrated his electric incandescent light by illuminating some 40 bulbs at his laboratory in Menlo Park, New Jersey.

In 1904, New York’s Times Square saw its first New Year’s Eve celebration, with an estimated 200,000 people in attendance.

In 1951, the Marshall Plan expired after distributing more than $12 billion in foreign aid.

In 1972, Major League baseball player Roberto Clemente, 38, was killed when a plane he chartered and was traveling on to bring relief supplies to earthquake-devastated Nicaragua crashed shortly after takeoff from Puerto Rico.

In 1974, private U.S. citizens were allowed to buy and own gold for the first time in more than 40 years.

In 1985, singer Rick Nelson, 45, and six other people were killed when fire broke out aboard a DC-3 that was taking the group to a New Year’s Eve performance in Dallas.

In 1987, Robert Mugabe (moo-GAH’-bay) was sworn in as Zimbabwe’s first executive president.

In 1991, representatives of the government of El Salvador and rebels reached agreement at the United Nations on a peace accord to end 12 years of civil war.

In 1999, Russian President Boris Yeltsin announced his resignation (he was succeeded by Vladimir Putin).

In 1997, Michael Kennedy, the 39-year-old son of the late Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, was killed in a skiing accident on Aspen Mountain in Colorado. Pianist Floyd Cramer died in Nashville at age 64.

In 2001, New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani spent his final day in office praising police, firefighters, and other city employees in the wake of 9/11, and said he had no regrets about returning to private life.

Ten years ago: A lone gunman dressed in black killed five people in Espoo, Finland, four of them at a crowded shopping mall, before returning home and taking his own life.

Five years ago: In one of his final acts as Maryland governor, Democrat Martin O’Malley announced that he would commute the sentences of four death-row inmates to life in prison without parole. A stampede at Shanghai’s glitzy riverfront during New Year celebrations resulted in 36 deaths. Actor Edward Herrmann, 71, died at Memorial Sloan Kettering Hospital in New York.

One year ago: Despite some New Year’s Eve gains, stocks finished 2018 with their worst yearly showing in a decade; the S&P 500 ended the year 6.2 percent lower than where it began. Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren took the first major step toward a presidential campaign, telling supporters she would more formally announce a campaign plan in early 2019. House Democrats unveiled a package of bills that would re-open the federal government without approved funding for President Donald Trump’s border wall with Mexico; Trump, meanwhile, told Fox News Channel that he was “ready, willing and able” to negotiate an end to the partial shutdown that had stretched into its 10th day.

Today’s Birthdays: TV producer George Schlatter is 90. Actor Sir Anthony Hopkins is 82. Actor Tim Considine (TV: “My Three Sons”) is 79. Actress Sarah Miles is 78. Actress Barbara Carrera is 78. Rock musician Andy Summers is 77. Actor Sir Ben Kingsley is 76. Producer-director Taylor Hackford is 75. Fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg is 73. Actor Tim Matheson is 72. Pop singer Burton Cummings is 72. Actor Joe Dallesandro is 71. Rock musician Tom Hamilton (Aerosmith) is 68. Actor James Remar is 66. Actress Bebe Neuwirth is 61. Actor Val Kilmer is 60. Singer Paul Westerberg is 60. Actor Don Diamont is 57. Rock musician Ric Ivanisevich (Oleander) is 57. Rock musician Scott Ian (Anthrax) is 56. Actress Gong Li is 54. Author Nicholas Sparks is 54. Actor Lance Reddick is 50. Pop singer Joe McIntyre is 47. Rock musician Mikko Siren (Apocalyptica) is 44. Donald Trump Jr. is 42. Rapper PSY (Park Jae-sang) is 42. Rock musician Bob Bryar is 40. Rock musician Jason Sechrist (Portugal. The Man) is 40. Actor Ricky Whittle is 40. Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., is 40. Actor/singer Erich Bergen is 34. DJ/vocalist Drew Taggart (The Chainsmokers) is 30. Olympic gold medal gymnast Gabby Douglas is 24.

Thought for Today: “Youth is when you’re allowed to stay up late on New Year’s Eve. Middle age is when you’re forced to!” — William E. Vaughan, American newspaper columnist (1915-1977).

By the Associated Press

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