Today in history: December 21


Today is Saturday, Dec. 21, the 355th day of 2019. There are 10 days left in the year. Winter arrives at 11:19 p.m. Eastern time.

Today’s Highlight in History:

On Dec. 21, 1988, 270 people were killed when a terrorist bomb exploded aboard a Pam Am Boeing 747 over Lockerbie, Scotland, sending wreckage crashing to the ground.

On this date:

In 1620, Pilgrims aboard the Mayflower went ashore for the first time at present-day Plymouth, Massachusetts.

In 1861, President Abraham Lincoln signed a congressional act authorizing the Navy Medal of Honor.

In 1864, during the Civil War, Union forces led by Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman concluded their “March to the Sea” as they captured Savannah, Georgia.

In 1891, the first basketball game, devised by James Naismith, is believed to have been played at the International YMCA Training School in Springfield, Massachusetts. (The final score of this experimental game: 1-0.)

In 1913, the first newspaper crossword puzzle, billed as a “Word-Cross Puzzle,” was published in the New York World.

In 1914, the U.S. government began requiring passport applicants to provide photographs of themselves.

In 1945, U.S. Army Gen. George S. Patton, 60, died in Heidelberg, Germany, 12 days after being seriously injured in a car accident.

In 1967, Louis Washkansky, the first human heart transplant recipient, died at a hospital in Cape Town, South Africa, 18 days after receiving the donor organ. The satirical comedy-drama “The Graduate,” starring Anne Bancroft and Dustin Hoffman, was released by Embassy Pictures.

In 1968, Apollo 8 was launched on a mission to orbit the moon.

In 1969, Vince Lombardi coached his last football game as his team, the Washington Redskins, lost to the Dallas Cowboys, 20-10.

In 1991, eleven of the 12 former Soviet republics proclaimed the birth of the Commonwealth of Independent States and the death of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.

In 1995, the city of Bethlehem passed from Israeli to Palestinian control.

Ten years ago: President Barack Obama hailed a crucial, early-morning test vote in the Senate on his health care overhaul, in which all 58 Democrats and two independents held together against unanimous Republican opposition. The Obama administration imposed a 3-hour limit on how long airlines can keep passengers waiting inside planes delayed on the ground. A Russian rocket blasted off from Kazakhstan, shuttling an American, a Russian and a Japanese to the International Space Station.

Five years ago: Jordan Axani, a 28-year-old businessman from Toronto, and a woman he’d never met before, Elizabeth Quinn Gallagher, a 23-year-old student from Nova Scotia, set out on a round-the-world trip. (Axani had advertised on social media for a travel companion after breaking up with his girlfriend, also named Elizabeth Gallagher; the companion was required to be a Canadian named Elizabeth Gallagher to take advantage of the non-refundable, non-exchangeable airline tickets.) Actress Billie Whitelaw, 82, died in London.

One year ago: The House and Senate adjourned without a deal on spending, guaranteeing that a partial government shutdown would begin at midnight; President Donald Trump continued to push for $5 billion in border wall funding, a proposal Democrats staunchly opposed. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg had surgery in New York to remove two malignant growths in her left lung, the third time she had been treated for cancer since 1999. In his annual Christmas speech, Pope Francis demanded that priests who had raped and molested children turn themselves in, and vowed that the Catholic Church would “never again” hide their crimes.

Today’s Birthdays: Talk show host Phil Donahue is 84. Actress Jane Fonda is 82. Actor Larry Bryggman is 81. Singer Carla Thomas is 77. Musician Albert Lee is 76. Conductor Michael Tilson Thomas is 75. Actor Josh Mostel is 73. Actor Samuel L. Jackson is 71. Rock singer Nick Gilder is 69. Movie producer Jeffrey Katzenberg is 69. Actor Dennis Boutsikaris is 67. Singer Betty Wright is 66. International Tennis Hall of Famer Chris Evert is 65. Actress Jane Kaczmarek is 64. Country singer Lee Roy Parnell is 63. Entertainer Jim Rose is 63. Former child actress Lisa Gerritsen is 62. Actor-comedian Ray Romano is 62. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is 57. Country singer Christy Forester (The Forester Sisters) is 57. Rock musician Murph (The Lemonheads; Dinosaur Jr.) is 55. Actor-comedian Andy Dick is 54. Rock musician Gabrielle Glaser is 54. Actress Michelle Hurd is 53. Actor Kiefer Sutherland is 53. Actress Karri Turner is 53. Actress Khrystyne Haje is 51. Country singer Brad Warren (The Warren Brothers) is 51. Actress Julie Delpy is 50. Country singer-musician Rhean (rehn) Boyer (Carolina Rain) is 49. Contemporary Christian singer Natalie Grant is 48. Actor Glenn Fitzgerald is 48. Singer-musician Brett Scallions is 48. World Golf Hall of Famer Karrie Webb is 45. Rock singer Lukas Rossi (Rock Star Supernova) is 43. Actress Rutina Wesley is 41. Rock musician Anna Bulbrook (Airborne Toxic Event) is 37. Country singer Luke Stricklin is 37. Actor Steven Yeun is 36. Actress Kaitlyn Dever is 23.

Thought for Today: “It is not necessary to understand things in order to argue about them.” — Pierre Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais, French author and dramatist (1732-1799).

The Associated Press