Today’s Highlight in History
On April 26, 1986: An explosion and fire at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine caused radioactive fallout to begin spewing into the atmosphere. (Dozens of people were killed in the immediate aftermath of the disaster while the long-term death toll from radiation poisoning is believed to number in the thousands.)
On this date
In 1607: English colonists went ashore at present-day Cape Henry, Virginia, on an expedition to establish the first permanent English settlement in the Western Hemisphere.
In 1865: John Wilkes Booth, the assassin of President Abraham Lincoln, was surrounded by federal troops near Port Royal, Virginia, and killed.
In 1913" Mary Phagan, a 13-year-old worker at a Georgia pencil factory, was strangled; Leo Frank, the factory superintendent, was convicted of her murder and sentenced to death. (Frank’s death sentence was commuted, but he was lynched by an anti-Semitic mob in 1915.)
In 1933: Nazi Germany’s infamous secret police, the Gestapo, was created.
In 1964: The African nations of Tanganyika and Zanzibar merged to form Tanzania.
In 1968: The United States exploded beneath the Nevada desert a 1.3 megaton nuclear device called “Boxcar.”
In 1977: The legendary nightclub Studio 54 had its opening night in New York.
In 1984: Bandleader Count Basie, 79, died in Hollywood, Florida.
In 1994: Voting began in South Africa’s first all-race elections, resulting in victory for the African National Congress and the inauguration of Nelson Mandela as president.
In 2000: Vermont Gov. Howard Dean signed the nation’s first bill allowing same-sex couples to form civil unions.
In 2009: The United States declared a public health emergency as more possible cases of swine flu surfaced from Canada to New Zealand; officials in Mexico City closed everything from concerts to sports matches to churches in an effort to stem the spread of the virus.
In 2018: Comedian Bill Cosby was convicted of drugging and molesting Temple University employee Andrea Constand at his suburban Philadelphia mansion in 2004. (Cosby was later sentenced to three to 10 years in prison, but Pennsylvania’s highest court threw out the conviction and released him from prison in June 2021, ruling that the prosecutor in the case was bound by his predecessor’s agreement not to charge Cosby.)
Ten years ago: Former Liberian President Charles Taylor became the first head of state since World War II to be convicted by an international war crimes court as he was found guilty of arming Sierra Leone rebels in exchange for “blood diamonds” mined by slave laborers and smuggled across the border. (Taylor was sentenced to 50 years in prison.)
Five years ago: Dismissing concerns about ballooning federal deficits, President Donald Trump proposed dramatic tax cuts for U.S. businesses and individuals. NASA’s Cassini spacecraft survived an unprecedented trip between Saturn and its rings, sending back amazing pictures to show for it. Jonathan Demme (DEM’-mee), the Oscar-winning director of “The Silence of the Lambs” and “Philadelphia,” died in New York at age 73.
One year ago: The Census Bureau said U.S. population growth had slowed to its lowest rate since the Great Depression; Americans continued their march to the South and West, as Texas and Florida added enough population to gain congressional seats while New York and Ohio saw slow growth and lost political muscle. The Justice Department opened a sweeping probe into policing in Louisville, Kentucky, over the March 2020 death of Breonna Taylor, who was shot by police during a raid at her home. Apple rolled out a new privacy feature, following through on its pledge to crack down on Facebook and other snoopy apps that secretly shadowed people on their iPhones in order to target more advertising at users.