Today in History
On Feb. 28, 2013, Benedict XVI became the first pope in 600 years to resign, ending an eight-year pontificate shaped by struggles to move the Catholic Church past sex abuse scandals and to reawaken Christianity in an indifferent world. (Benedict was succeeded the following month by Pope Francis.)
On this date:
In 1844, a 12-inch gun aboard the USS Princeton exploded as the ship was sailing on the Potomac River, killing Secretary of State Abel P. Upshur, Navy Secretary Thomas W. Gilmer and several others.
In 1861, the Territory of Colorado was organized.
In 1911, President William Howard Taft nominated William H. Lewis to be the first black Assistant Attorney General of the United States.
In 1942, the heavy cruiser USS Houston and the Australian light cruiser HMAS Perth were attacked by Japanese forces during the World War II Battle of Sunda Strait; both were sunk shortly after midnight.
In 1953, scientists James D. Watson and Francis H.C. Crick announced they had discovered the double-helix structure of DNA.
In 1960, a day after defeating the Soviets at the Winter Games in Squaw Valley, Calif., the United States won its first Olympic hockey gold medal by defeating Czechoslovakia’s team, 9-4.
In 1972, President Richard M. Nixon and Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai issued the Shanghai Communique, which called for normalizing relations between their countries, at the conclusion of Nixon’s historic visit to China.
In 1974, the United States and Egypt re-established diplomatic relations after a seven-year break.
In 1986, Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme was shot to death in central Stockholm. (The killing remains unsolved.)
In 1988, the 15th Olympic Winter Games held its closing ceremony in Calgary, Canada.
In 1993, a gun battle erupted at a religious compound near Waco, Texas, when Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agents tried to arrest Branch Davidian leader David Koresh on weapons charges; four agents and six Davidians were killed as a 51-day standoff began.
In 1994, Lorena Bobbitt was released from a state mental hospital in Virginia, five weeks after being acquitted by reason of insanity of sexually mutilating her husband, John.
Ten years ago: Iraq’s U.S.-picked leaders failed to meet a deadline for adopting an interim constitution. Six-nation talks on ending North Korea’s nuclear weapons program ended in Beijing with an agreement to hold more negotiations. The Bow Mariner, a tanker carrying ethanol, exploded and sank off the Virginia coast; 21 crew members died while six men survived. Former Librarian of Congress Daniel J. Boorstin died in Washington, D.C. at age 89.
Five years ago: Paul Harvey, the news commentator and talk-radio pioneer whose staccato style made him one of the nation’s most familiar voices, died in Phoenix at age 90. Oakland Raiders linebacker Marquis Cooper, free-agent NFL defensive lineman Corey Smith and former South Florida player William Bleakley died when their boat overturned in rough seas off the coast of Florida.
One year ago: President Barack Obama urged the Supreme Court to overturn California’s same-sex marriage ban and turn a skeptical eye on similar prohibitions across the country. Bradley Manning, the Army private arrested in the biggest leak of classified information in U.S. history, pleaded guilty at Fort Meade, Md., to 10 charges involving illegal possession or distribution of classified material. (Manning, who has since adopted the female identity Chelsea Manning, was sentenced to up to 35 years in prison after being convicted of additional charges in a court-martial.) In Seffner, Fla., a sinkhole opened up under a man’s bedroom and swallowed him up without a trace; Jeff Bush is presumed dead.
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