This Week in History: August 8-14th

August 8th

37th President of the United States of America Richard Nixon announced his resignation from the presidency on this day in 1974. Nixon, under pressure following the revelation of the Watergate scandal, and facing almost certain impeachment, became the first (and to-date, the only) US President to resign the position. The speech was broadcast live on television and radio from the Oval Office, and while the resignation was received favorably, the speech itself received a mixed response from journalists & commentators. Nixon was pardoned by his successor (and former Vice President), Gerald Ford, for his involvement with the Watergate Scandal. Nixon did not get off ‘scot-free’, as many believe he was finally prosecuted “in the court of public opinion” by David Frost in their 1977 interviews.
You can listen to the resignation speech in-full here.

Births: Tennis ace Roger Federer (1981).
Deaths: Roman Emperor Trajan (117BCE).
Holidays: International Cat Day.

August 9th

At the Berlin Summer Olympics, sprinter Jesse Owens won his fourth and final gold medal of the games on this day in 1936. The gold was for the 4 × 100m sprint relay, an event Owens had not planned on entering; head coach Lawson Robertson replaced Sam Stoller & Marty Glickman, the only Jewish members of the US athletic team, with Owens & Ralph Metcalfe. This decision, which was protested by Owens himself, has courted controversy, with theories supposing that the decision was made as not to embarrass the hosts, Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Germany, should two Jewish athletes win gold medals. By winning this fourth gold at the one games, Jesse Owens set a record for medal haul that would not be equaled until the 1984 games in Los Angeles, an Olympics that the USSR boycotted (thus casting a shadow over the legitimacy of Carl Lewis’ four). Reports of the time claimed that Hitler snubbed Owens, refusing to shake his hand, a claim Owens himself rebuked: “Hitler didn’t snub me — it was our president who snubbed me. The president didn’t even send me a telegram.”

Births: Actress & singer Anna Kendrick.
Deaths: Fashion designer & Nazi Party member Hugo Boss.
Holidays: International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples (UN).

August 10th

David Berkowitz, also known as the Son of Sam Killer, was arrested in Yonkers, NY on this day in 1977. He was indicted on charges of eight shooting attacks, attacks which resulted in six deaths and eight people being seriously injured. Berkowitz, a veteran of the US military who had then recently gotten a job in the USPS, initially claimed he was haunted by a demon who appeared to him in the form of a dog called ‘Harvey’, and it was this dog who instructed him to carry out his crimes. Despite this claim, Berkowitz was judged mentally fit to stand trial, and was found guilty of several counts of both murder in the second degree and attempted murder in the second degree. He later admitted the ‘dog-and-devil’ story was a hoax. Before his arrest, Berkowitz successfully evaded the largest manhunt in New York’s history, sending mocking letters to the police as he did it. Due to the media coverage of the case, and the notorious profile built by Berkowitz, New York passed the ‘Son of Sam Laws’, laws which said that a criminal cannot profit off of the notoriety of their crimes. Berkowitz is still alive, and is serving out six consecutive life sentences in prison.

Births: Man Utd and Republic of Ireland footballer Roy Keane (1971).
Deaths: Voice actor and soul music legend Isaac Hayes (2008).
Holidays: International Biodiesel Day.

August 11th

Stand-up comic, television star and Academy Award-winning actor Robin Williams passed away on this day in 2014. Known for his improvisational skills, Williams won many fans with his comedic performances in various children’s movies, most notably his voice acting in films like Aladdin and his live-action roles in films like Ms.Doubtfire, Jumanji, and the Night at the Museum series. Despite his background in comedy, Williams showed great range throughout his career, being the focal point of dramatic movies like Good Morning Vietnam, the Dead Poets Society and Good Will Hunting, the latter of which won him the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor.
Williams passed away suddenly in 2014. His publicist later revealed that Williams had been experiencing “severe depression” in the run-up to his suicide, and bouts of paranoia, as he struggled with the early stages Parkinson’s disease. Williams’ fans, shocked and distraught, flooded social media with tributes to the late actor, with many reenacting the iconic ‘O Captain! My Captain’ scene from Dead Poets Society. Williams is survived by his wife & three children.

Births: Television personality & podcast host Joe Rogan (1967).
Deaths: Hammer Productions & Star Wars actor Peter Cushing (1994).
Holidays: Mountain Day (Japan).

August 12th

The Apprentice Boys of Derry march, a march that commemorated the Protestant victory in the 1689 Siege of Derry, sparks tensions that had long been building up on this day in 1969, directly leading to the beginning of the Battle of the Bogside. Derry, a majority Catholic county, was represented almost entirely by Protestant politicians due to gerrymandering in their favour. The events surrounding the Battle of the Bogside lead Taoiseach Jack Lynch to pledge the support of the Irish Army through medical aid stations placed at the border. This in-turn, and combined with events in the North, lead to direct intervention from Westminster in Northern Ireland as the British Army was deployed. The British Army were initially welcomed by the majority of Catholics, being seen as a potentially much more neutral party than the RUC, but this opinion quickly faded. Regardless, the involvement of both the Irish and British governments guaranteed that what would become known as the Troubles would be seen as an international event rather than a regional British one.
The Apprentice Boys march, and the subsequent Battle of the Bogside, are seen by some as major catalysts for the beginning of the Troubles and the civil rights campaigns in the North.

Births: Italy & Nice footballer Mario Balotelli (1990).
Deaths: Egyptian Pharaoh Cleopatra (30BCE).
Holidays: World Elephant Day.

August 13th

Women became eligible to enlist in the US Marine Corps for the first time on this day in 1918. The first female member of ‘The Corps’ was Opha May Johnson, who happened to be the first person in the queue when enlisting that day. Over 300 women joined the Marine Corps during the first World War, with most being given administrative roles. Opha May Johnson, a former civil servant, was initially given the duties of a clerk in Marine Corp headquarters, managing the files & applications of the women who enlisted after her. Though the first World War only lasted for another three months, Opha May remained in the Marines until 1919, whereupon she became a clerk in the War Department. She passed away on August 11th 1955, and was buried on August 13th – exactly 37 years after she enlisted. Some sources erroneously claim she was in her mid-late teens when she enlisted, though she was more likely in her 40s.

Births: Cuban politician & revolutionary Fidel Castro (1926).
Deaths: Writer & novelist H.G. Wells (1946).
Holidays: International Lefthanders Day.

August 14th

The Rocky Horror Picture Show, a film based on the earlier stage musical, opened on this day in London in 1975. The film stars Tim Curry, Susan Sarandon, Michael Lee ‘Meatloaf’ Aday and Richard O’Brien (who also wrote the earlier musical and co-wrote the screenplay) in a bizarre spoof of sci-fi b-movies of the 1930s, 40s and 50s. The film was either ignored or critically panned upon release, but maintained a cult following. A culture built up around Rocky Horror, including various forms of audience participation, which helped with its popularity as a ‘Midnight Movie’. Rocky Horror holds the record of having the longest-running film release in history, having never been fully pulled from theatres since its 1975 debut. Screenings of Rocky Horror continue to take place today, and the style of audience participation has influenced the success of films like The Room, films that otherwise might not have been so successful. The film is credited as launching the film careers of leads Tim Curry & Susan Sarandon, as well as writer/co-star Richard O’Brien.

Births: That ’70s Show and Family Guy actor Mila Kunis (1983).
Deaths: American publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst (1951).
Holidays: Anniversary Day (Tristan da Cunha).

(You can read previous editions of ‘This Week in History’ by clicking here. You can also follow me on FacebookTwitterInstagram and now Medium for the latest news & updates related to my writing)

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