Today’s Highlight in History:
On Feb. 18, 2001, auto racing star Dale Earnhardt Sr. died in a crash at the Daytona 500; he was 49.
On this date:
In 1564, artist Michelangelo died in Rome.
In 1885, Mark Twain’s “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” was published in the U.S. for the first time (after being published in Britain and Canada).
In 1970, the “Chicago Seven” defendants were found not guilty of conspiring to incite riots at the 1968 Democratic national convention; five were convicted of violating the Anti-Riot Act of 1968 (those convictions were later reversed).
In 1972, the California Supreme Court struck down the state’s death penalty.
In 1983, 13 people were shot to death at a gambling club in Seattle’s Chinatown in what became known as the Wah Mee Massacre. (Two men were convicted of the killings and were sentenced to life in prison; a third was found guilty of robbery and assault.)
In 1984, Italy and the Vatican signed an accord under which Roman Catholicism ceased to be the state religion of Italy.
In 1988, Anthony M. Kennedy was sworn in as an associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.
In 1994, at the Winter Olympic Games in Norway, U.S. speedskater Dan Jansen finally won a gold medal, breaking the world record in the 1,000 meters.
In 2001, veteran FBI agent Robert Philip Hanssen was arrested, accused of spying for Russia. (Hanssen later pleaded guilty to espionage and attempted espionage and was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.)
In 2003, an arson attack involving two South Korean subway trains in the city of Daegu claimed 198 lives. (The arsonist was sentenced to life in prison, where he died in 2004.)
In 2016, in what was seen as a criticism of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, Pope Francis said that a person who advocated building walls was “not Christian”; Trump quickly retorted it was “disgraceful” to question a person’s faith. (A Vatican spokesman said the next day that the pope’s comment was not intended as a “personal attack” on Trump.)
In 2020, President Donald Trump commuted the 14-year prison sentence of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich for political corruption; Blagojevich left prison hours later and returned home to Chicago. (Trump also issued pardons or clemency to former New York City police commissioner Bernie Kerik, financier Michael Milken and a long list of others.)
Ten years ago: A star-studded funeral service was held for pop singer Whitney Houston at New Hope Baptist Church in Newark, New Jersey, a week after her death at age 48. Syrian security forces fired live rounds and tear gas at thousands of people marching in a funeral procession that turned into one of the largest protests in Damascus since the 11-month uprising against President Bashar Assad began.
Five years ago: Norma McCorvey, whose legal challenge under the pseudonym “Jane Roe” led to the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark decision that legalized abortion but who later became an outspoken opponent of the procedure, died in Katy, Texas, at age 69. Omar Abdel-Rahman, the so-called “Blind Sheik” convicted of plotting terror attacks in the United States in the 1990s, died at a federal prison in North Carolina where he was serving a life sentence; he was 78.
One year ago: Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, who had flown with his family to a vacation in Mexico as his state dealt with a deadly winter storm that crippled the power grid, returned home a day later and described the trip as “obviously a mistake.” Bob Dole, a 97-year-old former longtime senator and the 1996 Republican presidential nominee, said he’d been diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer. (Dole died in December 2021.) Health officials reported that life expectancy in the United States had dropped by one year during the first half of 2020 as the coronavirus pandemic caused its first wave of deaths. Naomi Osaka stopped Serena Williams’ latest bid for a record-tying 24th Grand Slam singles title in the Australian Open semifinals.
Today’s Birthdays: Singer Yoko Ono is 89. Singer-songwriter Bobby Hart is 83. Singer Irma Thomas is 81. Singer Herman Santiago (Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers) is 81. Actor Jess Walton is 76. Singer Dennis DeYoung is 75. Actor Sinead Cusack is 74. Actor Cybill Shepherd is 72. Singer Randy Crawford is 70. Rock musician Robbie Bachman is 69. Actor John Travolta is 68. Actor John Pankow is 67. Game show host Vanna White is 65. Actor Jayne Atkinson is 63. Actor Greta Scacchi (SKAH’-kee) is 62. Actor Matt Dillon is 58. Rock musician Tommy Scott (Space) is 58.
Rapper Dr. Dre is 57. Actor Molly Ringwald is 54. Actor Sarah Brown is 47. Country musician Trevor Rosen (Old Dominion) is 47. Actor Ike Barinholtz is 45. Actor Kristoffer Polaha is 45. Singer-musician Sean Watkins (Nickel Creek) is 45. Rock-singer musician Regina Spektor is 42. Opera singer Isabel Leonard is 40. Roots rock musician Zac Cockrell (Alabama Shakes) is 34. Actor Shane Lyons is 34. Actor Sarah Sutherland is 34. Actor Maiara Walsh is 34.