Today In History, Sunday, December 20th


Today is Sunday, Dec. 20, the 355th day of 2020. There are 11 days left in the year.
Today’s Highlight in History:
On Dec. 20, 1989, the United States launched Operation Just Cause, sending troops into Panama to topple the government of Gen. Manuel Noriega.
On this date:
In 1790, the first successful cotton mill in the United States began operating at Pawtucket, Rhode Island.
In 1803, the Louisiana Purchase was completed as ownership of the territory was formally transferred from France to the United States.
In 1860, South Carolina became the first state to secede from the Union as all 169 delegates to a special convention in Charleston voted in favor of separation.
In 1864, Confederate forces evacuated Savannah, Georgia, as Union Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman nearly completed his “March to the Sea.”
In 1924, Adolf Hitler was released from prison after serving nine months for his role in the Beer Hall Putsch.
In 1963, the Berlin Wall was opened for the first time to West Berliners, who were allowed one-day visits to relatives in the Eastern sector for the holidays.
In 1978, former White House chief of staff H.R. Haldeman was released from prison after serving 18 months for his role in the Watergate cover-up.
In 1987, more than 4,300 people were killed when the Dona Paz (DOHN’-yuh pahz), a Philippine passenger ship, collided with the tanker Vector off Mindoro island.
In 1995, an American Airlines Boeing 757 en route to Cali, Colombia, slammed into a mountain, killing all but four of the 163 people aboard. In Bosnia-Herzegovina, NATO began its peacekeeping mission, taking over from the United Nations.
In 1999, the Vermont Supreme Court ruled that homosexual couples were entitled to the same benefits and protections as wedded heterosexual couples.
In 2005, a federal judge ruled that “intelligent design” could not be mentioned in biology classes in a Pennsylvania public school district, delivering a stinging attack on the Dover Area School Board.
In 2017, Cardinal Bernard Law, the disgraced former archbishop of Boston, died in Rome at the age of 86; his failure to stop child molesters in the priesthood had triggered a crisis in American Catholicism.
Ten years ago: In the biggest anti-terrorist sweep in Britain in nearly two years, police arrested a dozen men accused of plotting a large-scale terror attack on targets inside the United Kingdom. Former Mexican presidential candidate Diego Fernandez de Cevallos was freed more than seven months after his kidnapping by suspected leftist rebels. “Barney Miller” actor Steve Landesberg, 74, died in Los Angeles.
Five years ago: A strong showing by a pair of upstart parties in Spain’s general election upended the country’s traditional two-party system, with the ruling center-right Popular Party winning the most votes but falling far short of a parliamentary majority. Pia Alonzo Wurtzbach of the Philippines was crowned Miss Universe at the pageant in Las Vegas (in a bizarre finale, first-time host Steve Harvey mistakenly identified first-runner up Ariadna Gutierrez Arevalo of Colombia as the winner before correcting himself and apologizing for the error). Tony Award-winning actress Patricia Elliott, 77, died in New York.
One year ago: President Donald Trump signed a Defense Authorization Act that included Space Force, the first new military service in more than 70 years. Police in Iowa said they had charged a woman with attempted murder after she told police that she intentionally ran over a 14-year-old girl because she believed the teenager was Mexican; she was also accused of driving over a curb to hit a 12-year-old Black boy. (Both children survived; the suspect, Nicole Poole, was ruled incompetent for trial.)
Today’s Birthdays: Original Mouseketeer Tommy Cole (TV: “The Mickey Mouse Club”) is 79. Rhythm and blues singer-musician Walter “Wolfman” Washington is 77. Rock musician-music producer Bobby Colomby is 76. Rock musician Peter Criss is 75. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue is 74. Psychic/illusionist Uri Geller is 74. Producer Dick Wolf (“Law & Order”) is 74. Rock musician Alan Parsons is 72. Actor Jenny Agutter is 68. Actor Michael Badalucco is 66. Actor Blanche Baker is 64. Rock singer Billy Bragg is 63. Rock singer-musician Mike Watt (The Secondmen, Minutemen, fIREHOSE) is 63. Actor Joel Gretsch is 57. Country singer Kris Tyler is 56. Rock singer Chris Robinson is 54. Actor Nicole deBoer is 50. Movie director Todd Phillips is 50. Singer David Cook (“American Idol”) is 38. Actor Jonah Hill is 37. Actor Bob Morley is 36. Singer JoJo is 30. Actor Colin Woodell is 29.