Today in 1980, 350 million people around the world tune in to television’s popular primetime drama “Dallas” to find out who shot J.R. Ewing, the character fans loved to hate. J.R. had been shot on the season-ending episode the previous March 21, which now stands as one of television’s most famous cliffhangers. As J.R. had many enemies, audiences were hard-pressed to guess who was responsible for his attempted murder.
The episode revealing J.R.’s shooter became one of television’s most watched shows, with an audience of 83 million people in the U.S. alone—a full 76 percent of all U.S. televisions on that night were tuned in—and helped put “Dallas” into greater worldwide circulation. It also popularized the use of the cliffhanger by television writers.
The CBS television network debuted the first five-episode pilot season of “Dallas” in 1978; it went on to run for another 12 full-length seasons. The last premiere episode of “Dallas” aired on May 3, 1991. A spin-off, “Knots Landing,” aired from December 27, 1979 until May 13, 1993. “Dallas” remains in syndication around the world.
Oh…Kristin Shepard, J.R.’s wife’s sister and his former mistress shot J.R. Ewing.
Today in 1975 the Senate Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities, chaired by Senator Frank Church, issued a report that U.S. officials instigated plots to assassinate Cuban leader Fidel Castro and Patrice Lumumba of the Congo. In addition, the U.S. officials “encouraged or were privy to” plots that led to the assassinations of Ngo Dinh Diem of South Vietnam, General Rene Schneider of Chile, and Rafael Trujillo of the Dominican Republic. The attempts against Castro failed, but the other four leaders were killed. There was also evidence suggesting U.S. involvement in a number of other assassination plots against foreign leaders.
The Central Intelligence Agency came in for special condemnation for its efforts to recruit Mafia hit men to kill Castro and mercenaries to assassinate Lumumba.
The committee indicated that it had no specific evidence that an American president ever authorized an assassination. However, it declared “whether or not the President in fact knows about the assassination plots, and even if their subordinates failed in their duty of full disclosure, it still follows that the President should have known about the plots.,,, We condemn the use of assassination as a tool of foreign policy [and] find that assassination violates moral precepts fundamental to our way of life.”
President Gerald Ford criticized the decision to release the report, claiming that it would do “grievous damage to our country” and would be used by “groups hostile to the United States in a manner designed to do maximum damage to the reputation and foreign policy of the United States.”