On April 4, 1968, civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., 39, was shot and killed while standing on a balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee; his slaying was followed by a wave of rioting (Washington, D.C., Baltimore and Chicago were among cities particularly hard hit). 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 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 1865, President Abraham Lincoln, accompanied by his son Tad, visited the vanquished Confederate capital of Richmond, Virginia, where he was greeted by a crowd that included former slaves.
In 1917, the U.S. Senate voted 82-6 in favor of declaring war against Germany (the House followed suit two days later by a vote of 373-50).
In 1945, during World War II, U.S. forces liberated the Nazi concentration camp Ohrdruf in Germany. Hungary was liberated as Soviet forces cleared out remaining German troops.
In 1949, 12 nations, including the United States, signed the North Atlantic Treaty in Washington, D.C.
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 1974, Hank Aaron of the Atlanta Braves tied Babe Ruth’s home-run record by hitting his 714th round-tripper in Cincinnati.
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. Microsoft was founded by Bill Gates and Paul Allen in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
In 1983, the space shuttle Challenger roared into orbit on its maiden voyage. (It was destroyed in the disaster of January 1986.)
In 1991, Sen. John Heinz, R-Pa., and six other people, including two children, were killed when a helicopter collided with Heinz’s plane over a schoolyard in Merion, Pennsylvania.
In 2011, yielding to political opposition, the Obama administration gave up on trying avowed Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed and four alleged co-conspirators in civilian federal courts and said it would prosecute them instead before military commissions.
In 2015, in North Charleston, South Carolina, Walter Scott, a 50-year-old Black motorist, was shot to death while running away from a traffic stop; Officer Michael Thomas Slager, seen in a cellphone video opening fire at Scott, was charged with murder. (The charge, which lingered after a first state trial ended in a mistrial, was dropped as part of a deal under which Slager pleaded guilty to a federal civil rights violation; he was sentenced to 20 years in prison.)
Ten years ago: Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy signed into law sweeping new restrictions on weapons and large capacity ammunition magazines similar to the ones used by the young man who gunned down 20 children and six educators in the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre. At least 72 people were killed in the collapse of an eight-story residential building being constructed illegally near Mumbai, India’s financial capital. Pulitzer Prize-winning film reviewer Roger Ebert, 70, died in Chicago.
Five years ago: Saying the situation had reached “a point of crisis,” President Donald Trump signed a proclamation directing the deployment of the National Guard to the U.S.-Mexico border to fight illegal immigration. Facebook revealed that tens of millions more people might have been exposed in a privacy scandal involving Cambridge Analytica, a Trump-affiliated data mining firm. After the United States said it would impose 25 percent duties on $50 billion of imports from China, Beijing quickly retaliated by listing $50 billion of products it could hit with its own 25 percent tariffs.
One year ago: President Joe Biden called for Russian President Vladimir Putin to be tried for war crimes after what he described as “outrageous” atrocities around Kyiv during the invasion of Ukriane. The Senate Judiciary Committee deadlocked, 11-11, on whether to send Ketanji Brown Jackson’s Supreme Court nomination to the Senate floor (It would later pass out of committee and she would be confirmed by the Senate three days later.) Kansas claimed its fourth national championship after defeating North Carolina in the finals of the NCAA Tournament in New Orleans.
Today’s Birthdays: Recording executive Clive Davis is 91. Author Kitty Kelley is 81. Actor Craig T. Nelson is 79. Actor Walter Charles is 78. Actor Christine Lahti is 73. Country singer Steve Gatlin (The Gatlin Brothers) is 72. Actor Mary-Margaret Humes is 69. Writer-producer David E. Kelley is 67. Actor Constance Shulman is 65. Actor Phil Morris is 64. Actor Lorraine Toussaint is 63. Actor Hugo Weaving is 63. Rock musician Craig Adams (The Cult) is 61. Talk show host/comic Graham Norton is 60. Actor David Cross is 59. Actor Robert Downey Jr. is 58. Actor Nancy McKeon is 57. Actor Barry Pepper is 53. Country singer Clay Davidson is 52. Rock singer Josh Todd (Buckcherry) is 52. Singer Jill Scott is 51. Rock musician Magnus Sveningsson (The Cardigans) is 51. Magician David Blaine is 50. Singer Kelly Price is 50. R&B singer Andre Dalyrimple (Soul For Real) is 49. Country musician Josh McSwain (Parmalee) is 48. Actor James Roday is 47. Actor Natasha Lyonne is 44. Actor Eric Andre is 40. Actor Amanda Righetti is 40. Actor-singer Jamie Lynn Spears is 32. Actor Daniela Bobadilla is 30. Pop singer Austin Mahone (muh-HOHN’) is 27. Actor Aliyah Royale is 23.