Today in History - Dec. 12

AP News
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Posted: Dec 12, 2009 12:02 AM

Today is Saturday, Dec. 12, the 346th day of 2009. There are 19 days left in the year.

Today's Highlight in History:

On Dec. 12, 1917, Father Edward Flanagan founded Boys Town outside Omaha, Neb.

On this date:

In 1787, Pennsylvania became the second state to ratify the U.S. Constitution.

In 1870, Joseph H. Rainey of South Carolina became the first black lawmaker sworn into the U.S. House of Representatives.

In 1897, "The Katzenjammer Kids," the pioneering comic strip created by Rudolph Dirks, made its debut in the New York Journal.

In 1906, President Theodore Roosevelt nominated Oscar Straus to be Secretary of Commerce and Labor; Straus became the first Jewish Cabinet member.

In 1925, the first motel _ the Motel Inn _ opened in San Luis Obispo, Calif.

In 1937, Japanese aircraft sank the U.S. gunboat Panay on China's Yangtze River. (Japan apologized, and paid $2.2 million in reparations.)

In 1939, swashbuckling actor Douglas Fairbanks died in Santa Monica, Calif., at age 56.

In 1963, Kenya gained its independence from Britain.

In 1985, 248 American soldiers and eight crew members were killed when an Arrow Air charter crashed after takeoff from Gander, Newfoundland.

In 1989, in New York, hotel queen Leona Helmsley, 69, was sentenced to four years in prison and fined $7.1 million for tax evasion. (Helmsley served 18 months behind bars, plus a month at a halfway house and two months of house arrest.)

Ten years ago: Author Joseph Heller, whose darkly comic first novel "Catch-22" defined the paradox of the no-win dilemma and added a phrase to the American language, died in East Hampton, N.Y., at age 76.

Five years ago: A bomb exploded in a market in southern Philippines, killing at least 14 people. Militants blew up an Israeli base at the Gaza-Egypt crossing, killing five soldiers. Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas apologized to Kuwaitis for Palestinian support for Saddam Hussein after Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990.

One year ago: A bomb exploded inside the West Coast Bank in Woodburn, Ore., killing Woodburn Police Capt. Thomas Tennant and Oregon State Police Senior Trooper William Hakim. (Two suspects, Bruce Aldon Turnidge, 58, and his son, Joshua Abraham Turnidge, 32, face murder charges.) Actor Van Johnson died in Nyack, N.Y. at 92.

Today's Birthdays: TV host Bob Barker ("The Price Is Right") is 86. Former New York City Mayor Edward Koch is 85. Basketball Hall of Famer Bob Pettit is 77. Singer Connie Francis is 71. Singer Dionne Warwick is 69. Rock singer-musician Dickey Betts is 66. Former race car driver Emerson Fittipaldi is 63. Actor Wings Hauser is 62. Actor Bill Nighy is 60. Actor Duane Chase ("The Sound of Music") is 59. Country singer LaCosta is 59. Gymnast-turned-actress Cathy Rigby is 57. Author Lorna Landvik is 55. Singer-musician Sheila E. is 52. Actress Sheree J. Wilson is 51. Pop singer Daniel O'Donnell is 48. Rock musician Eric Schenkman (Spin Doctors) is 46. Rock musician Nicholas Dimichino (Nine Days) is 42. News anchor Maggie Rodriguez is 40. Actress Jennifer Connelly is 39. Actress Madchen Amick is 39. Country singer Hank Williams III is 37. Actress Mayim Bialik is 34. Model Bridget Hall is 32.

Thought for Today: "Experience has taught me that the only cruelties people condemn are those with which they do not happen to be familiar." _ Ellen Glasgow, American author (1874-1945).