Today’s Highlight in History:
On Dec. 26, 1799, former President George Washington was eulogized by Col. Henry Lee as “first in war, first in peace and first in the hearts of his countrymen.”
On this date:
In 1908, Jack Johnson became the first African-American boxer to win the world heavyweight championship as he defeated Canadian Tommy Burns in Sydney, Australia.
In 1917, during World War I, President Woodrow Wilson issued a proclamation authorizing the government to take over operation of the nation’s railroads.
In 1941, during World War II, Winston Churchill became the first British prime minister to address a joint meeting of the U.S. Congress.
In 1966, Kwanzaa was first celebrated.
In 1973, The Exorcist, a horror film starring the actress Linda Blair as a girl possessed by an evil spirit, makes its debut in theaters; it will go on to earn a reputation as one of the scariest movies in history.
In 1974, comedian Jack Benny died in Los Angeles at age 80.
In 1980, Iranian television footage was broadcast in the United States showing a dozen of the American hostages sending messages to their families.
In 1994, French commandos stormed a hijacked Air France jetliner on the ground in Marseille, killing four Algerian hijackers and freeing 170 hostages.
In 1996, six-year-old beauty queen JonBenet Ramsey was found beaten and strangled in the basement of her family’s home in Boulder, Colorado. (To date, the slaying remains unsolved.)
In 2003, an earthquake struck the historic Iranian city of Bam, killing at least 26,000 people.
In 2004, more than 230,000 people, mostly in southern Asia, were killed by a 100-foot-high tsunami triggered by a 9.1-magnitude earthquake beneath the Indian Ocean.
In 2006, former President Gerald R. Ford died in Rancho Mirage, California, at age 93.
In 2012, Toyota Motor Corp. said it had reached a settlement worth more than $1 billion in a case involving unintended acceleration problems in its vehicles.
Ten years ago: A heart surgeon and a technician from a Mayo Clinic in Florida, flying across the northern corner of the state to retrieve a heart for transplant, were killed along with the pilot when their helicopter crashed. Drew Brees set the NFL record for yards passing in a season and the New Orleans Saints clinched the NFC South title with a 45-16 victory over the Atlanta Falcons. (The passing record would be broken two years later by Denver’s Peyton Manning.)
Five years ago: President-elect Donald Trump and President Barack Obama traded competing claims about who would have won had the presidential election been a contest between the two of them; Obama suggested in a podcast he still held enough sway over the coalition of voters that elected him twice to get them to vote for him once again while Trump tweeted: “He should say that but I say NO WAY!”
One year ago: A California woman, Miya Ponsetto, wrongly accused a Black teen of taking her phone at a New York City hotel and grabbed at him as he tried to leave; she would later be charged with a hate crime. (The teen’s family has sued the woman and the hotel, alleging racial profiling.) Baseball Hall of Famer Phil Niekro, who pitched well into his 40s with a knuckleball that baffled big league hitters, died after a long fight with cancer; he was 81. LeBron James was voted Male Athlete of the Year by the AP after winning his fourth NBA title, putting the Lakers on top of the basketball world again and taking a stand for social justice and voting rights.
Today’s Birthdays: R&B singer Abdul “Duke” Fakir (The Four Tops) is 86. “America’s Most Wanted” host John Walsh is 76. Country musician Bob Carpenter (The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band) is 75. Funk musician George Porter Jr. (The Meters) is 74. Baseball Hall of Fame catcher Carlton Fisk is 74. Retired MLB All-Star Chris Chambliss is 73. Baseball Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith is 67. Former Sen. Evan Bayh, D-Ind., is 66. Humorist David Sedaris is 65. Rock musician James Kottak (The Scorpions) is 59. Rock musician Lars Ulrich (Metallica) is 58. Actor Nadia Dajani is 56. Rock musician J is 54.
Rock singer James Mercer (The Shins; Flake) is 51. Actor-singer Jared Leto is 50. Actor Kendra C. Johnson is 45. Rock singer Chris Daughtry is 42. Actor Beth Behrs is 36. Actor Kit Harington is 35. Actor Eden Sher is 30. Pop singer Jade Thirlwall (Little Mix Actor) is 29. Actor Zach Mills is 26.