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This Day in History: Feb. 18

Written by on February 17, 2021

On this day, Feb. 18 …

2001: Auto racing star Dale Earnhardt Sr. dies in a crash at the Daytona 500; he was 49.

Also on this day:

  • 1546: Martin Luther, leader of the Protestant Reformation in Germany, dies in Eisleben.
  • 1861: Jefferson Davis is sworn in as provisional president of the Confederate States of America in Montgomery, Ala.
  • 1913: Mexican President Francisco I. Madero and Vice President Jose Maria Pino Suarez are arrested during a military coup. (Both would be shot to death on Feb. 22).
  • 1930: Photographic evidence of Pluto (now designated a “dwarf planet”) is discovered by Clyde W. Tombaugh at Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Ariz.
  • 1943: Madame Chiang Kai-shek, wife of the Chinese leader, addresses members of the Senate and then the House, becoming the first Chinese national to address both houses of the U.S. Congress.
  • 1970: The “Chicago Seven” defendants are found not guilty of conspiring to incite riots at the 1968 Democratic national convention; five are convicted of violating the Anti-Riot Act of 1968. (Those convictions would be later reversed).
  • 1972: The California Supreme Court strikes down the state’s death penalty.
  • 1977: The space shuttle prototype Enterprise, sitting atop a Boeing 747, goes on its debut “flight” above Edwards Air Force Base in California.
  • 1983: In what became known as the “Wah Mee Massacre,” 13 people are shot to death at a gambling club in Seattle’s Chinatown. (Two men would be convicted of the killings and are serving life sentences; a third would be found guilty of robbery and assault.)
  • 1988: Anthony M. Kennedy is sworn in as an associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.
  • 1997: Astronauts on the space shuttle Discovery complete their tune-up of the Hubble Space Telescope after 33 hours of spacewalking; the Hubble is then released using the shuttle’s crane.
  • 2009: President Obama launches a $75 billion foreclosure rescue plan aimed at saving homes.
  • 2009: Eric Holder, the nation’s first Black attorney general, says in a speech to Justice Department employees marking Black History Month that the United States is “a nation of cowards” on matters of race. 
  • 2009: Pope Benedict XVI receives House Speaker Nancy Pelosi at the Vatican, telling her that Catholic politicians have a duty to protect life “at all stages of its development.”
  • 2014: Megan Rice, an 84-year-old nun, is sentenced in Knoxville, Tenn., to nearly three years in prison for breaking into a nuclear weapons complex and defacing a bunker holding bomb-grade uranium, a demonstration that exposes serious security flaws at the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge. (Two other activists receive sentences of just over five years.)
  • 2018: “Black Panther,” the Marvel superhero film from the Walt Disney Co., exceeds expectations to take in $192 million during its debut weekend in U.S. and Canadian theaters. 

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