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Today in History: April 4, Martin Luther King is assassinated in Memphis at age 39

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Today in History

Today is Thursday, April 4, the 95th day of 2024. There are 271 days left in the year.

Today’s Highlight in History:

On April 4, 1968, civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., 39, was shot and killed while standing on a balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee; his slaying was followed by a wave of rioting (Washington, D.C., Baltimore and Chicago were among cities particularly hard hit). James Earl Ray later pleaded guilty to assassinating King, then spent the rest of his life claiming he’d been the victim of a setup.

On this date:

In 1841, President William Henry Harrison succumbed to pneumonia one month after his inaugural, becoming the first U.S. chief executive to die in office; John Tyler became the first vice president to assume the office of president after such a death.

In 1865, President Abraham Lincoln, accompanied by his son Tad, visited the vanquished Confederate capital of Richmond, Virginia, where he was greeted by a crowd that included former slaves.

In 1917, the U.S. Senate voted 82-6 in favor of declaring war against Germany (the House followed suit two days later by a vote of 373-50).

In 1945, during World War II, U.S. forces liberated the Nazi concentration camp Ohrdruf in Germany. Hungary was liberated as Soviet forces cleared out remaining German troops.

In 1949, 12 nations, including the United States, signed the North Atlantic Treaty in Washington, D.C.

In 1973, the twin towers of New York’s World Trade Center were officially dedicated.

In 1974, Hank Aaron of the Atlanta Braves tied Babe Ruth’s home-run record by hitting his 714th round-tripper in Cincinnati.

In 1975, more than 130 people, most of them children, were killed when a U.S. Air Force transport plane evacuating Vietnamese orphans crash-landed shortly after takeoff from Saigon.

In 1983, the space shuttle Challenger roared into orbit on its maiden voyage. (It was destroyed in the disaster of January 1986.)

In 1991, Sen. John Heinz, R-Pa., and six other people, including two children, were killed when a helicopter collided with Heinz’s plane over a schoolyard in Merion, Pennsylvania.

In 2011, yielding to political opposition, the Obama administration gave up on trying avowed Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed and four alleged co-conspirators in civilian federal courts and said it would prosecute them instead before military commissions.

In 2012, a federal judge sentenced five former New Orleans police officers to prison for the deadly Danziger Bridge shootings in the chaotic days following Hurricane Katrina. (The verdicts in the case were later set aside by the judge, who cited prosecutorial misconduct; the officers pleaded guilty in 2016 to reduced charges.)

In 2013, Pulitzer Prize-winning film reviewer Roger Ebert died in Chicago at age 70.

In 2015, in North Charleston, South Carolina, Walter Scott, a 50-year-old Black motorist, was shot to death while running away from a traffic stop; Officer Michael Thomas Slager, seen in a cellphone video opening fire at Scott, was charged with murder. (The charge, which lingered after a first state trial ended in a mistrial, was dropped as part of a deal under which Slager pleaded guilty to a federal civil rights violation; he was sentenced to 20 years in prison.)

In 2018, saying the situation had reached “a point of crisis,” President Donald Trump signed a proclamation directing the deployment of the National Guard to the U.S.-Mexico border to fight illegal immigration.

In 2021, Stanford beat Arizona 54-53 to become NCAA women’s basketball champions.

In 2022, President Joe Biden called for Russian President Vladimir Putin to be tried for war crimes after what he described as “outrageous” atrocities around Kyiv during the invasion of Ukraine.

In 2023, Prosecutors unsealed a historic 34-count felony indictment of Donald Trump that said he conspired to illegally influence the 2016 election through a series of hush money payments designed to stifle claims that could be harmful to his candidacy.

Today’s Birthdays: Recording executive Clive Davis is 92. Author Kitty Kelley is 82. Actor Craig T. Nelson is 80. Actor Christine Lahti is 74. Country singer Steve Gatlin (The Gatlin Brothers) is 73. Actor Mary-Margaret Humes is 70. Writer-producer David E. Kelley is 68. Actor Constance Shulman is 66. Actor Phil Morris is 65. Actor Lorraine Toussaint is 64. Actor Hugo Weaving is 64. Rock musician Craig Adams (The Cult) is 62. Talk show host/comic Graham Norton is 61. Actor David Cross is 60. Actor Robert Downey Jr. is 59. Actor Nancy McKeon is 58. Actor Barry Pepper is 54. Country singer Clay Davidson is 53. Rock singer Josh Todd (Buckcherry) is 53. Singer Jill Scott is 52. Rock musician Magnus Sveningsson (The Cardigans) is 52. Magician David Blaine is 51.Amanda Righetti Singer Kelly Price is 51. R&B singer Andre Dalyrimple (Soul For Real) is 50. Country musician Josh McSwain (Parmalee) is 49. Actor James Roday is 48. Actor Natasha Lyonne is 45. Actor Eric Andre is 41. Actor is 41. Actor-singer Jamie Lynn Spears is 33. Actor Daniela Bobadilla is 31. Pop singer Austin Mahone (muh-HOHN’) is 28. Actor Aliyah Royale is 24.

By The Associated Press

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