Without passion there might be no errors, but without passion there would certainly be no history.
~C. V. Wedgwood
1861 – Texas became the seventh state to secede from the Union when a state convention voted 166 to 8 in favor of the measure.
The Texans who voted to leave the Union did so over the objections of their governor, Sam Houston. A staunch supporter of the Union, Houston’s election in 1859 as governor seemed to indicate that Texas did not share the rising secessionist sentiments of the other Southern states.
However, events swayed many Texans to the secessionist cause. John Brown’s raid on the federal armory at Harpers Ferry, Virginia in October 1859 had raised the fear of a major slave insurrection, and the emergent Republican Party made many Texans uneasy about continuing in the Union. After Abraham Lincoln’s election to the presidency in November 1860, pressure mounted on Houston to call a convention so that Texas could consider secession. He did so reluctantly in January 1861, and sat in silence as the convention voted overwhelmingly in favor of secession.
Houston, who predicted an “ignoble defeat” for the South, refused to take an oath of allegiance to the Confederacy and was replaced on March 16, 1861 by Lieutenant Governor Edwin Clark.
1865 – President Abraham Lincoln signed the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. The amendment abolished slavery and involuntary servitude, except as punishment for a crime.
While under the Constitution, the President plays no formal role in the amendment process, the joint resolution was sent to Lincoln for his signature. Under the usual signatures of the Speaker of the House and the President of the Senate, President Lincoln wrote the word “Approved” and added his signature to the joint resolution on February 1, 1865.
Having been ratified by the legislatures of three-fourths of the several states—27 of the 36 states (including those that had been in rebellion), Secretary of State Seward, on December 18, 1865, certified that the Thirteenth Amendment had become valid, to all intents and purposes, as a part of the Constitution.
1943 – Japanese forces on Guadalcanal Island – defeated by Marines after the battle had turned to fierce hand-to-hand jungle fighting – started to withdraw after the Japanese emperor finally gave them permission.
The Japanese retreat was so stealthy that the Americans did not even know it had taken place until they stumbled upon abandoned positions, empty boats, and discarded supplies. In total, the Japanese lost more than 25,000 men compared with a loss of 1,600 by the Americans. Each side lost 24 warships.
1968 – During the Vietnam War, Saigon’s police chief, Nguyen Ngoc Loan, executed a Viet Cong officer with a pistol shot to the head. The photo won AP photographer Eddie Adams the 1969 Pulitzer Prize for Spot News Photography, though he later regretted its impact. The image became an anti-war icon.
1968 – Richard M. Nixon announced his candidacy for the presidency. Taking a stance between the more conservative elements of his party, led by Ronald Reagan, and the liberal northeastern wing, led by Governor Nelson Rockefeller, Nixon won the nomination on the first ballot at the Republican National Convention in Miami Beach. Most observers had written off Nixon’s political career eight years earlier, when he had lost to John F. Kennedy in the 1960 election.
What I find interesting about this is the fact the Nixon waited until only 10 months remained before the election. Today, he would have already been campaigning for two years!
1979 – Ayatollah Khomeini returned to Iran in triumph after 15 years of exile. The shah and his family had fled the country two weeks before, and jubilant Iranian revolutionaries were eager to establish a fundamentalist Islamic government under Khomeini’s leadership.
With religious fervor running high, he consolidated his authority and set out to transform Iran into a religious state. On November 4, 1979, the 15th anniversary of his exile, students stormed the U.S. embassy in Tehran and took the staff hostage. With Khomeini’s approval, the radicals demanded the return of the shah to Iran (he died in Egypt of cancer in July 1980) and held 52 Americans hostage for 444 days.
1989 – The Soviet–Afghan War came to a close when the last Soviet armored column left Kabul. Insurgent groups (“the Mujahideen,” who received aid from both Christian and Muslim countries) had fought the Soviet Army and allied Afghan forces for nine years.
2002 – Daniel Pearl, the South Asia Bureau Chief of The Wall Street Journal, based in Mumbai, India, was decapitated by Islamic extremists. He had gone to Pakistan as part of an investigation into the alleged links between Richard Reid (the “shoe bomber”) and Al-Qaeda.
On January 23, 2002, on his way to what he thought was an interview with Sheikh Mubarak Ali Gilani in downtown Karachi, Pearl was kidnapped by a militant group calling itself the National Movement for the Restoration of Pakistani Sovereignty.
The group claimed Pearl was a spy and sent the United States a range of demands, including the freeing of all Pakistani terror detainees, and the release of a halted U.S. shipment of F-16 fighter jets to the Pakistani government.
From left (bottom row): Kalpana Chawla, mission specialist; Rick Husband, commander; Laurel Clark, mission specialist; and Ilan Ramon, payload specialist. From left (top row) are astronauts David Brown, mission specialist; William McCool, pilot; and Michael Anderson, payload commander.
2003 – Space shuttle Columbia broke up while entering the atmosphere over Texas, killing all seven crew members on board. When it launched on January 16, a piece of foam insulation broke off from the shuttle’s propellant tank and hit the edge of the shuttle’s left wing eighty seconds into the launch.
Engineers at the space agency believed that the damage to the wing could cause a catastrophic failure, but their concerns were not addressed in the two weeks that Columbia spent in orbit because NASA management believed that even if major damage had been caused, there was little that could be done to remedy the situation.
Columbia reentered the earth’s atmosphere on the morning of February 1. It wasn’t until 10 minutes later, at 8:53 a.m. – as the shuttle was 231,000 feet above the California coastline traveling at 23 times the speed of sound – that the first indications of trouble began. Because the heat-resistant tiles covering the left wing’s leading edge had been damaged or were missing, wind and heat entered the wing and blew it apart.
The first debris began falling to the ground in west Texas near Lubbock at 8:58 a.m. One minute later, the last communication from the crew was heard, and at 9 a.m. the shuttle disintegrated over southeast Texas, near Dallas. Residents in the area heard a loud explosion and saw streaks of smoke in the sky. Debris and the remains of the crew were found in more than 2,000 locations across East Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana. Making the tragedy even worse, two pilots aboard a search helicopter were killed in a crash while looking for debris.
Postscript:In August 2003, an investigation board issued a report that revealed that it in fact would have been possible either for the Columbia crew to repair the damage to the wing or for the crew to be rescued from the shuttle. The Columbia could have stayed in orbit until February 15 and the already planned launch of the shuttle Atlantis could have been moved up as early as February 10, leaving a short window for repairing the wing or getting the crew off of the Columbia.
2009 – The Pittsburgh Steelers won their record sixth Super Bowl with a 27-23 victory over the Arizona Cardinals in Super Bowl XLIII when Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger threw a 6-yard touchdown pass to Santonio Holmes with 35 seconds remaining.
2014 – Actor Maximilian Schell (nominated for a Best Actor Academy Award for The Man in the Glass Booth , a Best Supporting Actor nomination for Julia, and won an Academy Award for Best Actor for Judgment at Nuremberg) died of pneumonia at the age of 83.
Compiled by Ray Lemire ©2016 RayLemire.com. All Rights Reserved.