Today in History


Today is Wednesday, April 12, the 102nd day of 2023. There are 263 days left in the year.

Today’s Highlight in History:

On April 12, 1861, the Civil War began as Confederate forces opened fire on Fort Sumter in South Carolina.

On this date:

In 1945, President Franklin D. Roosevelt died of a cerebral hemorrhage in Warm Springs, Georgia, at age 63; he was succeeded by Vice President Harry S. Truman.

In 1955, the Salk vaccine against polio was declared safe and effective.

In 1961, Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first man to fly in space, orbiting the earth once before making a safe landing.

In 1963, civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. was arrested and jailed in Birmingham, Alabama, charged with contempt of court and parading without a permit. (During his time behind bars, King wrote his “Letter from Birmingham Jail.”)

In 1981, former world heavyweight boxing champion Joe Louis, 66, died in Las Vegas, Nevada.

In 1985, Sen. Jake Garn, R-Utah, became the first sitting member of Congress to fly in space as the shuttle Discovery lifted off.

In 1988, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office issued a patent to Harvard University for a genetically engineered mouse, the first time a patent was granted for an animal life form.

In 1990, in its first meeting, East Germany’s first democratically elected parliament acknowledged responsibility for the Nazi Holocaust, and asked the forgiveness of Jews and others who had suffered.

In 1992, after five years in the making, Euro Disneyland (now called Disneyland Paris) opened in Marne-La-Vallee, France, amid controversy as French intellectuals bemoaned the invasion of American pop culture.

In 2015, Hillary Rodham Clinton jumped back into presidential politics, announcing in a video her much-awaited second campaign for the White House.

In 2020, Christians around the world celebrated Easter Sunday isolated in their homes by the coronavirus. St. Peter’s Square was barricaded to keep out crowds. Pope Francis celebrated Easter Mass inside the largely vacant basilica, calling for global solidarity in the face of the pandemic.

Ten years ago: U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, visiting South Korea, delivered a stark warning to North Korea not to test-fire a mid-range missile while tamping down anxiety caused by a new U.S. intelligence report suggesting significant progress in the communist regime’s nuclear weapons program. Guan Tianlang, a 14-year-old from China, made history as the youngest player to make the cut in a PGA Tour-sanctioned event; despite being the first player at Augusta National to get hit with a one-shot penalty for slow play, Guan made the cut under the 10-shot rule at the Masters. American chess grandmaster Robert Byrne, 84, died in Ossining, New York.

Five years ago: Police in Philadelphia arrested two black men at a Starbucks; the men had been asked to leave after one of them was denied access to the restroom. (Starbucks apologized and, weeks later, closed thousands of stores for part of the day to conduct anti-bias training.) Carl Ferrer, the chief executive of, which authorities described as an “online brothel,” pleaded guilty to California and federal charges including conspiracy and money laundering, and agreed to testify against others at the website. Schoolteachers in Oklahoma ended two weeks of walkouts. The Screen Actors Guild issued new guidelines calling for an end to auditions and professional meetings in private hotel rooms and residences in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal.

One year ago: Vladimir Putin vowed that Russia’s bloody offensive in Ukraine would continue until its goals are fulfilled and insisted the campaign was going as planned, despite a major withdrawal in the face of stiff Ukrainian opposition and significant losses. A gunman in a gas mask and a construction vest set off a smoke canister on a rush-hour subway train in Brooklyn and shot and wounded 10 people. (Frank James, 62, would later be arrested and plead guilty to the shooting.) Federal data confirmed that 2021 had been the deadliest year in U.S. history, brought on by COVID-19 and an unprecedented spike in adolescent drug overdoses. Actor and standup comic Gilbert Gottfried died at age 67.

Today’s Birthdays: Playwright Alan Ayckbourn (AYK’-bohrn) is 84. Jazz musician Herbie Hancock is 83. Rock singer John Kay (Steppenwolf) is 79. Actor Ed O’Neill is 77. Actor Dan Lauria is 76. Talk show host David Letterman is 76. Author Scott Turow is 74. Actor-playwright Tom Noonan is 72. R&B singer JD Nicholas (The Commodores) is 71. Singer Pat Travers is 69. Actor Andy Garcia is 67. Movie director Walter Salles (SAL’-ihs) is 67. Country singer Vince Gill is 66. Model/TV personality J Alexander is 65. Rock musician Will Sergeant (Echo & the Bunnymen) is 65. Rock singer Art Alexakis (Everclear) is 61. Country singer Deryl Dodd is 59. Folk-pop singer Amy Ray (Indigo Girls) is 59. Actor Alicia Coppola is 55. Rock singer Nicholas Hexum (311) is 53. Actor Retta is 53. Actor Nicholas Brendon is 52. Actor Shannen Doherty is 52. Actor Marley Shelton is 49. Actor Sarah Jane Morris is 46. Actor Jordana Spiro is 46. Rock musician Guy Berryman (Coldplay) is 45. Actor Riley Smith is 45. Actor Claire Danes is 44. Actor Jennifer Morrison is 44. Actor Matt McGorry is 37. Actor Brooklyn Decker is 36. Contemporary Christian musician Joe Rickard (Red) is 36. Rock singer-musician Brendon Urie (Panic! at the Disco) is 36. Actor Saoirse (SUR’-shuh) Ronan is 29.

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