April 14


President Abraham Lincoln was shot in the head at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C. The assassin, actor John Wilkes Booth, shouted, “Sic semper tyrannis! (Ever thus to tyrants!) The South is avenged,” as he jumped onto the stage and fled on horseback. Lincoln died the next morning.


President William Howard Taft became the first president to throw out the ceremonial first pitch at a MLB game. The historic toss on opening day was to star Walter Johnson, the Washington Senators' starting pitcher against the Philadelphia Athletics at National Park in the nation's capital. Senators owner Clark Griffith had wanted a U.S. president to throw out the first pitch for years. Taft was a genuine sports fan and willing participant in an ingenious public relations move. By convincing him to throw out the ceremonial first pitch of the season, Griffith hoped to permanently fix the presidential seal of approval on baseball as the national pastime once and for all.


In what came to be known as “Black Sunday,” one of the most devastating storms of the 1930s Dust Bowl era swept across the region. High winds kicked up clouds of millions of tons of dirt and dust so dense and dark that some eyewitnesses believed the world was coming to an end. The term “dust bowl” was reportedly coined by a reporter and referred to the plains of western Kansas, southeastern Colorado, the panhandles of Texas and Oklahoma, and northeastern New Mexico. The grassy plains of this region had been over-plowed by farmers and overgrazed by cattle and sheep. The resulting soil erosion, combined with an eight-year drought which began in 1931, created a dire situation for farmers and ranchers.

April 15


Jackie Robinson, age 28, became the first African American player in Major League Baseball when he stepped onto Ebbets Field in Brooklyn to compete for the Brooklyn Dodgers. Robinson broke the color barrier in a sport that had been segregated for more than 50 years. Exactly 50 years later, on April 15, 1997, Robinson’s groundbreaking career was honored and his uniform number, 42, was retired from Major League Baseball by Commissioner Bud Selig in a ceremony attended by over 50,000 fans at New York City’s Shea Stadium. Robinson’s was the first-ever number retired by all teams in the league.


In Living Color premiered on Fox. The sketch comedy television series was created by Keenan Ivory Wayans and starred several previously unknown comedians and actors, including Jamie Foxx, Jennifer Lopez, Jim Carrey, David Alan Grier, Tommy Davidson and more. Though lasting only four short seasons, the series was influential for its decision to portray Black humor from a raw and uncut perspective in a time when mainstream American tastes regarding Black comedy had been set by shows such as The Cosby Show. The series won the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Variety, Music or Comedy Series in 1990.


Two bombs went off near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, killing three spectators and wounding more than 260 other people in attendance. Four days later, after an intense manhunt that shut down the Boston area, police captured one of the bombing suspects, 19-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev; his older brother and fellow suspect, 26-year-old Tamerlan Tsarnaev, died following a shootout with law enforcement earlier that same day. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev went on trial in January 2015 and was found guilty on all 30 counts, including the use of a weapon of mass destruction. He was sentenced to death but appealed the decision. Tsarnaev is currently being held at a supermax prison in Colorado.

April 16


Multimillionaire and financier Bernard Baruch, in a speech given during the unveiling of his portrait in the South Carolina House of Representatives, coins the term “Cold War” to describe relations between the United States and the Soviet Union: a war without fighting or bloodshed, but a battle nonetheless. The phrase stuck, and for decades it has been a mainstay in the language of American diplomacy. Baruch had served as an advisor to presidents on economic and foreign policy issues since the days of Woodrow Wilson and until the administration of Harry S. Truman. In 1919, he was one of the U.S. advisers at the Paris Peace Conference that ended World War I. During the 1930s, he frequently advised FDR and members of Congress on international finance and issues of neutrality.


Ling-Ling and Hsing-Hsing, two juvenile giant pandas, arrived at the National Zoo in Washington, DC. Reportedly, at a dinner during a visit between President Richard Nixon and Mao Zedong in Beijing, Mrs. Nixon told the Chinese premier how much she loved giant pandas. The gift of pandas to the U.S. continued a long tradition of “panda diplomacy” by China that dates back to the Tang Dynasty in the 600s. Americans instantly adopted them in an outpouring of affection called “Panda-Monium!” On the animals first day at the zoo, 20,000 admirers visited them. Ling-Ling died at the age of 23 of heart failure in 1992, while Hsing-Hsing lived to the ripe old age of 28.


32 people died after being gunned down on the campus of Virginia Tech by Seung-Hui Cho, a student at the college who later died by suicide. In the aftermath of the shooting, authorities found no evidence that Cho had specifically targeted any of his victims. The public soon learned that Cho, described by students as a loner who rarely spoke to anyone, had a history of mental health problems. Angry, violent writings Cho made for certain class assignments had raised concern among some of his professors and fellow students well before the events. In 2011, Virginia Tech was fined by the U.S. Department of Education for failing to issue a prompt campus-wide warning after Cho shot his first two victims.

April 17



American statesman, printer, scientist and writer Benjamin Franklin died in Philadelphia at age 84. Born in Boston in 1706, Franklin became a printing and publishing apprentice at 12 y/o. During his lifetime, he helped establish Philadelphia's first circulating library, police force, volunteer fire company, and an academy that became the University of Pennsylvania. He was the first American scientist to be highly regarded in European scientific circles due to his experiments with electricity. In 1776, he helped draft the Declaration of Independence and in July signed the final document. After his death in 1790, Philadelphia gave him the largest funeral the city had ever seen.


The Bay of Pigs invasion began when a CIA-trained group of Cuban refugees landed in Cuba and attempted to topple the communist government of Fidel Castro. The plan was hatched under President Eisenhower, who increasingly saw Castro as aligned with communists in the Soviet Union, and Kennedy gave the go-ahead for the attack. The failure at the Bay of Pigs cost the United States dearly. Castro used the attack by the “Yankee imperialists” to solidify his power in Cuba and he requested additional Soviet military aid. Eventually that aid included missiles, and the construction of missile bases in Cuba sparked the Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962, when the United States and the Soviet Union nearly came to blows over the issue.


The Ford Mustang was officially unveiled by Henry Ford II at the World’s Fair in Flushing Meadows, New York. That same day, the new car also debuted in Ford showrooms across America and almost 22,000 Mustangs were immediately snapped up by buyers. Named for a World War II fighter plane, the Mustang was the first of a type of vehicle that came to be known as a “pony car.” Ford sold more than 400,000 Mustangs within its first year of production, far exceeding sales expectations. In 2004, Ford built its 300 millionth car, a 2004 Mustang GT convertible 40th anniversary model. Over the decades, the Mustang underwent numerous evolutions, and it remains in production today.

April 18


At 5:13 a.m., an earthquake estimated at close to 8.0 on the Richter scale struck San Francisco, California. The quake was caused by a slip of the San Andreas Fault over a segment about 275 miles long, and shock waves could be felt from southern Oregon down to Los Angeles. By April 23, most fires were extinguished, and authorities commenced the task of rebuilding the devastated metropolis. It was estimated that some 3,000 people died as a result of the Great San Francisco Earthquake and the devastating fires it inflicted upon the city. Almost 30,000 buildings were destroyed, including most of the city’s homes and nearly all the central business district.


Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Ernie Pyle, America’s most popular war correspondent, was killed by Japanese machine-gun fire on the island of Ie Shima in the Pacific. Pyle, who always wrote about the experiences of enlisted men rather than the battles they participated in, became a national folk hero by reporting on the average soldier in World War II. Ernie Pyle’s death dealt a blow to Americans still reeling from the loss of President Franklin D. Roosevelt on April 12. President Harry S. Truman paid tribute to the fallen correspondent, as did former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, who fondly remembered meeting him. Today his work is still the yardstick by which all other war reporting is judged.


The U.S. embassy in Beirut, Lebanon, was almost completely destroyed by a car-bomb explosion that killed 63 people, including the suicide bomber and 17 Americans. The terrorist attack was carried out in protest of the U.S. military presence in Lebanon. In 1975, a bloody civil war erupted in Lebanon, with Palestinian and leftist Muslim guerrillas battling militias of the Christian Phalange Party, the Maronite Christian community, and other groups. On August 20, 1982, a multinational force featuring U.S. Marines landed in Beirut to oversee the Palestinian withdrawal from Lebanon. U.S. President Ronald Reagan announced the end of U.S. participation in the peacekeeping force, and on February 26 the last U.S. Marines left Beirut.

April 19



The American Revolution began when 700 British troops, on a mission to capture Patriot leaders and seize a Patriot arsenal, marched into Lexington to find 77 armed minutemen under Captain John Parker waiting for them on the town’s common green. British Major John Pitcairn ordered the outnumbered Patriots to disperse, and after a moment’s hesitation the Americans began to drift off the green. Suddenly, a shot was fired from an undetermined gun, and a cloud of musket smoke soon covered the green. When the brief Battle of Lexington ended, eight Americans lay dead or dying and 10 others were wounded. Only one British soldier was injured.


As a prelude to a massive antiwar protest, Vietnam Veterans Against the War began a five-day demonstration in Washington, D.C. The generally peaceful protest, called Dewey Canyon III in honor of the operation of the same name conducted in Laos, ended on April 23 with about 1,000 veterans throwing their combat ribbons, helmets, and uniforms on the Capitol steps, along with toy weapons. Earlier, they had lobbied with their congressmen, laid wreaths in Arlington National Cemetery, and staged mock “search and destroy” missions.


A massive truck bomb exploded outside the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The blast collapsed the north face of the nine-story building, instantly killing more than 100 people and trapping dozens more in the rubble. Emergency crews raced to Oklahoma City from across the country, and when the rescue effort finally ended two weeks later the death toll stood at 168 people killed, including 19 young children who were in the building’s day-care center at the time of the blast. On April 21, the massive manhunt for suspects in the worst terrorist attack ever committed on U.S. soil by an American resulted in the capture of Timothy McVeigh, a 27-year-old former U.S. Army soldier who was a member of a radical survivalist group in Michigan.

April 20


Edgar Allan Poe’s story, "The Murders in the Rue Morgue," first appeared in Graham’s Lady’s and Gentleman’s Magazine. The tale is generally considered to be the first detective story and the author was paid an additional $56 for it: a high figure if compared to what he earned from publishing the “The Raven” (only $9). The story describes the extraordinary “analytical power” used by Monsieur C. Auguste Dupin to solve a series of murders in Paris. Like the later Sherlock Holmes stories, the tale is narrated by the detective’s roommate. Following the publication of Poe’s story, detective stories began to grow into novels.


The Chicago Bulls’ Michael Jordan scored 63 points in an NBA playoff game against the Boston Celtics, setting a post-season scoring record and breaking records held by Elgin Baylor, Bob Cousy and Wilt Chamberlain. Despite Jordan’s achievement, the Bulls lost to the Celtics in double overtime, 135-131. Boston swept the three-game series and went on to win the NBA championship. The Celtics’ star forward Larry Bird said: “He is the most exciting, awesome player in the game today. I think it’s just God disguised as Michael Jordan.” The following season, “Air Jordan” became only the second NBA player, after Wilt Chamberlain, to record 3,000 points in a season.


26-year-old Danica Patrick won the Indy Japan 300 at Twin Ring Motegi in Motegi, Japan, making her the first female winner in IndyCar racing history. On May 29, 2005, Patrick made her Indy 500 debut, becoming just the fourth female driver ever to compete in the celebrated 500-mile race, which was first held in 1911 and today is considered one of auto racing’s premier events. During Patrick’s inaugural Indy 500, she led the race for 19 laps, marking the first time a woman ever led a lap in the competition. She later earned Rookie of the Year honors for the Indy Racing League’s 2005 season. Patrick retired from IndyCar after the 2011 season and fully retired from racing in 2018.

Rowenna Remulta