Today in History

Today is Saturday, Feb. 20, the 51st day of 2021. There are 314 days left in the year.

Today’s Highlight in History:

On Feb. 20, 1905, the U.S. Supreme Court, in Jacobson v. Massachusetts, upheld, 7-2, compulsory vaccination laws intended to protect the public’s health.

On this date:

In 1792, President George Washington signed an act creating the United States Post Office Department.

In 1839, Congress prohibited dueling in the District of Columbia.

In 1933, Congress proposed the 21st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution to repeal Prohibition.

In 1942, Lt. Edward “Butch” O’Hare became the U.S. Navy’s first flying ace of World War II by shooting down five Japanese bombers while defending the aircraft carrier USS Lexington in the South Pacific.

In 1962, astronaut John Glenn became the first American to orbit the Earth as he flew aboard Project Mercury’s Friendship 7 spacecraft, which circled the globe three times in a flight lasting 4 hours, 55 minutes and 23 seconds before splashing down safely in the Atlantic Ocean 800 miles southeast of Bermuda.

In 1965, America’s Ranger 8 spacecraft crashed on the moon, as planned, after sending back thousands of pictures of the lunar surface.

In 1987, a bomb left by Unabomber Ted Kaczynski exploded behind a computer store in Salt Lake City, seriously injuring store owner Gary Wright. Soviet authorities released Jewish activist Josef Begun.

In 1998, Tara Lipinski of the U.S. won the ladies’ figure skating gold medal at the Nagano (NAH’-guh-noh) Olympics; Michelle Kwan won the silver.

In 1999, movie reviewer Gene Siskel died at a hospital outside Chicago at age 53.

In 2003, a fire sparked by pyrotechnics broke out during a concert by the group Great White at The Station nightclub in West Warwick, Rhode Island, killing 100 people and injuring about 200 others.

In 2007, in a victory for President George W. Bush, a divided federal appeals court ruled that Guantanamo Bay detainees could not use the U.S. court system to challenge their indefinite imprisonment.

In 2010, Alexander Haig, a soldier and statesman who’d held high posts in three Republican administrations and some of the U.S. military’s top jobs, died in Baltimore at 85.

Ten years ago: Security forces loyal to Libya’s Moammar Gadhafi unleashed heavy gunfire as thousands marched in the rebellious eastern city of Benghazi, cutting down mourners trying to bury victims. Twenty-year-old Trevor Bayne won the Daytona 500 in only his second Sprint Cup start. Kobe Bryant won his record-tying fourth All-Star game MVP award, scoring 37 points and propelling the West to a 148-143 victory over the East in the NBA All-Star game.

Five years ago: Donald Trump barreled to victory in South Carolina’s Republican primary; Hillary Clinton pulled out a crucial win over Bernie Sanders in Nevada’s Democratic caucuses. A funeral Mass was held for Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington. Lindsey Vonn clinched a record 20th World Cup crystal globe title in La Thuile (lah tweel), Italy, surpassing Swedish great Ingemar Stenmark.

One year ago: Japan’s Health Ministry said two passengers who’d been taken off a quarantined cruise ship after being infected with the new coronavirus had died; both were in their 80s and had pre-existing diseases. Sixteen Americans who’d been brought to the U.S. from the cruise ship were in hospitals, either because delayed test results showed that they had the virus or because they had shown symptoms. A poll by the Associated Press and the NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found more Americans expressing some concern about catching the flu than about catching the coronavirus. Trump loyalist Roger Stone was sentenced to more than three years in prison for crimes including lying to Congress and obstructing the House’s inquiry into Russian meddling in the 2016 election. (Trump would commute the sentence just days before Stone was to report for detention; he then gave Stone a full pardon in December 2020.) Morgan Stanley announced that it was buying E-Trade Financial for $13 billion in stock.

Today’s Birthdays: Actor Sidney Poitier is 94. Racing Hall of Famer Bobby Unser is 87. Racing Hall of Famer Roger Penske is 84. Singer-songwriter Buffy Sainte-Marie is 80. Hockey Hall of Famer Phil Esposito is 79. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., is 79. Movie director Mike Leigh is 78. Actor Brenda Blethyn is 75. Actor Sandy Duncan is 75. Actor Peter Strauss is 74. Rock musician Billy Zoom (X) is 73. Former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown is 70. Actor John Voldstad is 70. Newspaper heiress Patricia Hearst is 67. Actor Anthony Head is 67. Country singer Leland Martin is 64. Actor James Wilby is 63. Rock musician Sebastian Steinberg is 62. Comedian Joel Hodgson (HAHD’-suhn) is 61. Basketball Hall of Famer Charles Barkley is 58. Rock musician Ian Brown (Stone Roses) is 58. Actor Willie Garson is 57. Actor French Stewart is 57. Actor Ron Eldard is 56. Model Cindy Crawford is 55. Actor Andrew Shue is 54. Actor Lili Taylor is 54. Actor Andrea Savage is 48. Singer Brian Littrell is 46. Actor Lauren Ambrose is 43. Actor Jay Hernandez is 43. Actor Chelsea Peretti is 43. Country musician Coy Bowles is 42. Actor Michael Zegen is 42. Actor Majandra Delfino is 40. Actor Jocko Sims is 40. Singer-musician Chris Thile (THEE’-lee) is 40. Actor-singer Jessie Mueller is 38. MLB All-Star pitcher Justin Verlander is 38. Comedian Trevor Noah is 37. Actor Jake Richardson is 36. Actor Daniella Pineda is 34. Actor Miles Teller is 34. Singer Rihanna is 33. Actor Jack Falahee is 32.