Today’s Highlight in History:
On May 5, 1961, astronaut Alan B. Shepard Jr. became America’s first space traveler as he made a 15-minute suborbital flight aboard Mercury capsule Freedom 7.
On this date:
In 1494, during his second voyage to the Western Hemisphere, Christopher Columbus landed in Jamaica.
In 1818, political philosopher Karl Marx, co-author of “The Communist Manifesto” and author of “Das Kapital,” was born in Prussia.
In 1862, Mexican troops defeated French occupying forces in the Battle of Puebla.
In 1865, what’s believed to be America’s first train robbery took place as a band of criminals derailed a St. Louis-bound train near North Bend, Ohio; they proceeded to rob the passengers and loot safes on board before getting away.
In 1925, schoolteacher John T. Scopes was charged in Tennessee with violating a state law that prohibited teaching the theory of evolution. (Scopes was found guilty, but his conviction was later set aside.)
In 1942, wartime sugar rationing began in the United States.
In 1945, in the only fatal attack of its kind during World War II, a Japanese balloon bomb exploded on Gearhart Mountain in Oregon, killing the pregnant wife of a minister and five children. Denmark and the Netherlands were liberated as a German surrender went into effect.
In 1981, Irish Republican Army hunger-striker Bobby Sands died at the Maze Prison in Northern Ireland on his 66th day without food.
In 1985, President Ronald Reagan kept a controversial promise to West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl by leading a wreath-laying ceremony at the military cemetery in Bitburg.
In 1987, the congressional Iran-Contra hearings opened with former Air Force Maj. Gen. Richard V. Secord (SEE’-kohrd) the lead-off witness.
In 1994, Singapore caned American teenager Michael Fay for vandalism, a day after the sentence was reduced from six lashes to four in response to an appeal by President Bill Clinton.
In 2009, Texas health officials confirmed the first death of a U.S. resident with swine flu.
Ten years ago: Preliminary plans for a mosque and cultural center near ground zero in New York were unveiled, setting off a national debate over whether the project was disrespectful to 9/11 victims and whether opposition to it exposed anti-Muslim biases. Three people, trapped in an Athens bank torched by rioters, died during a nationwide strike against the cash-strapped Greek government’s harsh austerity measures.
Five years ago: Secretary of State John Kerry made an unannounced trip to Somalia in a show of solidarity with a government trying to defeat al-Qaida-allied militants and end decades of war in the African country; Kerry was the first top U.S. diplomat ever to visit Somalia. President Barack Obama tapped Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford Jr., a highly respected combat commander, to be his next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee declared his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination.
One year ago: White House national security adviser John Bolton said the Pentagon was deploying an aircraft carrier and other military resources to the Middle East; a defense official later said there had been “clear indications” that Iran and its proxy forces were preparing to possibly attack U.S. forces in the region. A Russian airliner burst into flames while making an emergency landing in Moscow, killing 41 people; 33 others survived. “Avengers: Endgame” continued its global domination at the box office, crossing the $2 billion mark in record time on its way to becoming the highest-grossing film ever worldwide. Eagle-eyed viewers of “Game of Thrones” on HBO spotted a takeout coffee cup on the table during a scene in which the characters drank from goblets and horns.
Today’s Birthdays: Actress Pat Carroll is 93. Former AFL-CIO president John J. Sweeney is 86. Country singer-musician Roni Stoneman is 82. Actor Michael Murphy is 82. Actor Lance Henriksen is 80. Comedian-actor Michael Palin is 77. Actor John Rhys-Davies is 76. Rock correspondent Kurt Loder is 75. Rock musician Bill Ward (Black Sabbath) is 72. Actress Melinda Culea is 65. Actress Lisa Eilbacher is 63. Actor Richard E. Grant is 63. Former broadcast journalist John Miller is 62. Rock singer Ian McCulloch (Echo and the Bunnymen) is 61. NBC newsman Brian Williams is 61. Rock musician Shawn Drover (Megadeth) is 54. TV personality Kyan (KY’-ihn) Douglas is 50. Actress Tina Yothers is 47. Rhythm and blues singer Raheem DeVaughn is 45. Actor Santiago Cabrera is 42. Actor Vincent Kartheiser is 41. Singer Craig David is 39. Actress Danielle Fishel is 39. Actor Henry Cavill is 37. Rock musician Josh Smith is 37. Actor Clark Duke is 35. Soul singer Adele is 32. Rock singer Skye Sweetnam is 32. Rhythm-and-blues singer Chris Brown is 31. Figure skater Nathan Chen is 21.
Thought for Today: “Great minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, small minds discuss people.” — Admiral Hyman G. Rickover, “father” of America’s nuclear navy (1900-1986).