On April 4, 1968, civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., 39, was shot to death as he stood on a balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tenn. (James Earl Ray later pleaded guilty to assassinating King, then spent the rest of his life claiming he'd been the victim of a setup.)
On this date:
In 1818, Congress decided the flag of the United States would consist of 13 red and white stripes and 20 stars, with a new star to be added for every new state of the Union.
In 1841, President William Henry Harrison succumbed to pneumonia one month after his inaugural, becoming the first U.S. chief executive to die in office.
In 1850, the city of Los Angeles was incorporated.
In 1859, "Dixie" was performed publicly for the first time by Bryant's Minstrels at Mechanics' Hall in New York.
In 1912, China proclaimed a republic in Tibet, a move fiercely opposed by Tibetans.
In 1933, the Navy airship USS Akron crashed in severe weather off the New Jersey coast with the loss of 73 lives.
In 1949, 12 nations, including the United States, signed the North Atlantic Treaty in Washington, D.C.
In 1960, Elvis Presley recorded "Are You Lonesome Tonight?" in Nashville for RCA Victor.
In 1973, the twin towers of New York's World Trade Center were officially dedicated. (The towers were destroyed in the terrorist attack of Sept. 11, 2001.)
In 1975, more than 130 people, most of them children, were killed when a U.S. Air Force transport plane evacuating Vietnamese orphans crash-landed shortly after takeoff from Saigon.
In 1983, the space shuttle Challenger roared into orbit on its maiden voyage. (It was destroyed in the disaster of January 1986.)
In 1988, the Arizona Senate convicted Gov. Evan Mecham of two charges of official misconduct, and removed him from office. (Mecham was the first U.S. governor to be impeached and removed from office in nearly six decades.)
Ten years ago: U.S. forces seized Saddam International Airport outside Baghdad. Sammy Sosa of the Chicago Cubs became the 18th player to hit 500 career homers, connecting for a solo shot in a 10-9 loss to Cincinnati.
Five years ago: Texas authorities started removing the first of more than 400 girls from a compound built by a polygamist sect. Lisa Montgomery was sentenced to death in Kansas City, Mo., for killing Bobbie Jo Stinnett, a mother-to-be, and cutting the surviving baby from her womb. Pirates seized the French luxury yacht Le Ponant and its 30 crew members off the coast of Somalia. (The crew was released a week later; six alleged pirates ended up being captured.)
One year ago: Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney unleashed a strong attack on President Barack Obama's truthfulness, accusing him of running a "hide-and-seek" re-election campaign in an address to newspaper editors and publishers. A federal judge sentenced five former New Orleans police officers to prison for the deadly shootings on a bridge in the chaotic days following Hurricane Katrina.
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