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Today in History

May 31, 2021 GMT

Today in History

Today is Monday, May 31, the 151st day of 2021. There are 214 days left in the year. This is Memorial Day.

Today’s Highlight in History:

On May 31, 1921, a race riot erupted in Tulsa, Oklahoma, as white mobs began looting and leveling the affluent Black district of Greenwood over reports a Black man had assaulted a white woman in an elevator; hundreds are believed to have died.

On this date:

In 1578, the Christian catacombs of ancient Rome were accidentally discovered by workers digging in a vineyard along the Via Salaria.

In 1790, President George Washington signed into law the first U.S. copyright act.

In 1859, the Big Ben clock tower in London went into operation, chiming for the first time.

In 1889, some 2,200 people in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, perished when the South Fork Dam collapsed, sending 20 million tons of water rushing through the town.

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In 1935, movie studio 20th Century Fox was created through a merger of the Fox Film Corp. and Twentieth Century Pictures.

In 1962, former Nazi official Adolf Eichmann was hanged in Israel a few minutes before midnight for his role in the Holocaust.

In 1970, a magnitude 7.9 earthquake in Peru claimed an estimated 67,000 lives.

In 1977, the Trans-Alaska oil pipeline, three years in the making despite objections from environmentalists and Alaska Natives, was completed. (The first oil began flowing through the pipeline 20 days later.)

In 1989, House Speaker Jim Wright, dogged by questions about his ethics, announced he would resign. (Tom Foley later succeeded him.)

In 2009, Dr. George Tiller, a rare provider of late-term abortions, was shot and killed in a Wichita, Kansas, church. (Gunman Scott Roeder was later convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison with no possibility of parole for 50 years.) Millvina Dean, the last survivor of the 1912 sinking of the RMS Titanic, died in Southampton, England at 97.

In 2014, Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, the only American soldier held prisoner in Afghanistan, was freed by the Taliban in exchange for five Afghan detainees from the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. (Bergdahl, who’d gone missing in June 2009, later pleaded guilty to endangering his comrades by walking away from his post in Afghanistan; his sentence included a dishonorable discharge, a reduction in rank and a fine, but no prison time.)

In 2019, a longtime city employee opened fire in a municipal building in Virginia Beach, Virginia, killing 12 people on three floors before police shot and killed him; officials said DeWayne Craddock had resigned by email hours before the shooting.

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Ten years ago: Angered by civilian casualties, Afghan President Hamid Karzai said he would no longer allow NATO airstrikes on houses. Former Bosnian Serb military commander Ratko Mladic (RAHT’-koh MLAH’-dich) was placed in a U.N. detention unit in the Netherlands to await trial on genocide charges.

Five years ago: A jury found former suburban Chicago police officer Drew Peterson guilty of trying to hire someone to kill the prosecutor who helped to convict him in the killing of his third wife, Kathleen Savio.

One year ago: Tens of thousands of protesters again took to the streets across America, with peaceful demonstrations against police killings overshadowed by unrest; officials deployed thousands of National Guard soldiers and enacted strict curfews in major cities. Protesters in Washington, D.C., started fires near the White House amid increasing tensions with police, who fired tear gas and stun grenades. In tweets, President Donald Trump blamed anarchists and the media for fueling violence. The White House said it had sent to Brazil more than 2 million doses of a malaria drug touted by Trump as potentially protecting against the coronavirus; scientific evidence had not backed up those uses of the drug. The privately-owned spacecraft SpaceX delivered two NASA astronauts to the International Space Station. Artist Christo, known for massive public arts projects that often involved wrapping large structures in fabric, died in New York at 84.

Today’s Birthdays: Actor-director Clint Eastwood is 91. Singer Peter Yarrow is 83. Humanitarian and author Terry Waite is 82. Singer-musician Augie Meyers is 81. Actor Sharon Gless is 78. Football Hall of Famer Joe Namath is 78. Broadcast journalist/commentator Bernard Goldberg is 76. Actor Tom Berenger is 71. Actor Gregory Harrison is 71. Actor Kyle Secor is 64. Actor Roma Maffia (ma-FEE’-uh) is 63. Actor/comedian Chris Elliott is 61. Actor Lea Thompson is 60. Singer Corey Hart is 59. Actor Hugh Dillon is 58. Rapper DMC is 57. Actor Brooke Shields is 56. Country musician Ed Adkins (The Derailers) is 54. TV host Phil Keoghan is 54. Jazz musician Christian McBride is 49. Actor Archie Panjabi is 49. Actor Merle Dandridge (TV: “Greenleaf”) is 46. Actor Colin Farrell is 45. Rock musician Scott Klopfenstein (Reel Big Fish) is 44. Actor Eric Christian Olsen is 44. Rock musician Andy Hurley (Fall Out Boy) is 41. Country singer Casey James (TV: “American Idol”) is 39. Actor Jonathan Tucker is 39. Rapper Waka Flocka Flame is 35. Actor Curtis Williams Jr. is 34. Pop singer Normani Hamilton (Fifth Harmony) is 25.