Today in 1957 a special committee reporting to President Eisenhower headed by Ford Foundation Chairman Rowan Gaither concluded Soviet Russia was far ahead of the US in nuclear missiles. The report advocated accelerated missile construction and $30 billion be allocated to fallout shelters.
Eisenhower did increase funds for missiles and civil defense but not the huge amount the committee suggested. U-2 spy flights suggested the Soviets did not have the advantage the committee reported.
The report was supposed to be secret but much of it got leaked to the press, creating a minor public panic. During the 1960 presidential campaign John Kennedy made an issue of the “missile gap.”
Today in 1991 legendary basketball figure Earvin “Magic” Johnson announced his retirement from the Los Angeles Lakers after testing positive for HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. Johnson was a three-time Most Valuable Player and a 12-time All Star team member. His retirement did not keep him from professional basketball. Magic Johnson was voted most valuable player of the 1992 All Star Game, played on the “Dream Team” of the Barcelona Olympics, was head coach for the Lakers in the 1993-94 season, and as a Lakers player in the 1995-96 season. Today Johnson is a successful businessman and spokesman for AIDS awareness. He is an example that AIDS is not necessarily a death sentence and can be a manageable condition. 25 million people have died of AIDS worldwide and another 40 million have been infected.
After three years of construction the Tacoma Narrows Bridge was opened to the public July 1, 1940, making it the third-longest suspension bridge in the world with a span of 2,800 feet. The bridge took commuters from Tacoma, Washington, across the Tacoma Narrows to the Gig Harbor Peninsula. Commuters noticed the bridge swayed and buckled in moderate to high winds and nicknamed it “Galloping Gertie.”
Today in 1940, four months after completion, the span buckled and collapsed and plunged 190 feet into the Tacoma Narrows in 42 mph wind. It was designed to withstand winds of 120 mph. People were able to get off the bridge before it collapsed and the only fatality was a frightened cocker spaniel that could not be coaxed from a car.
A new Tacoma Narrows Bridge was built in 1950, with design flaws rectified. The remains of Galloping Gertie were listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1992.
Congratulations David Dinkins who was elected today in 1989 as New York City mayor, the first black American to hold the office.
Congratulations Douglas Wilder who was elected today in 1989 as governor of Virginia, the first black American elected to the office of governor.
The first black governor was Lt. Governor Pinkey Pinchback of Louisiana in 1872. He filled in for five weeks while Governor Henry Warmouth faced impeachment proceedings.
Congratulations Jeannette Rankin who in 1916 (before women were allowed to vote) was elected to represent Montana in the House, becoming the first female elected to congress.
Congratulations Franklin D. Roosevelt who was elected in 1944 to a fourth term, the only president to serve more than two terms. In 1951 the 22nd Amendment was passed, limiting presidential administrations to two four-year terms.
Rest in peace Steve McQueen, popular actor, in 1980 at Rosarito Beach, Mexico, died while undergoing an experimental cancer cure that involved coffee enemas and apricot pits. McQueen was 50 years old.