A Blast from the Past

By United Press International  |  Nov. 7, 2002 at 3:00 AM
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Today is Nov. 7.

Voters went to the polls on this date in 2000 to elect a president but the outcome of one of the closest presidential elections in decades would not be known for more than a month. The race between Republican George W. Bush, the eventual winner, and Democrat Al Gore was so close it all came down to the disputed Florida vote and subsequent recount plus a vital U.S. Supreme Court ruling favoring Bush.

A political milestone for African-Americans occurred on this date in 1989, when Democrat David Dinkins was elected as the first black mayor of New York City. In Virginia, Democrat Douglas Wilder claimed victory in a razor-thin race to become the first black elected governor in America.

Republican Jeannette Rankin of Montana became the first woman elected to the U.S. House of Representatives on this date in 1916.

In 1944, at the height of World War II, President Franklin D. Roosevelt was re-elected to a fourth term on this date in 1944, defeating Thomas Dewey. FDR was the first and only person elected to the office four times. However, he only served 53 days after his Jan. 20, 1945, inauguration and did not live to see the end of the war. He died on April 12 of a cerebral hemorrhage at his Warm Springs, Ga., retreat.

It was on this date in 1874 when a real political institution began in America. Thomas Nast used an elephant to represent the Republican Party in a satirical cartoon published in Harper's Weekly. Today, the elephant is still recognized as a symbol of the GOP.

On this date in 1940, the Tacoma Narrows Bridge in Washington State, then the third longest suspension bridge in the world, swayed one last time and collapsed, only four months after its completion. No one was injured. Experts still argue about what caused a bridge designed to withstand winds up to 120 mph could collapse in a wind of 42 mph. Most agree, however, that the collapse was related to resonance, a phenomenon that also comes into play when a soprano shatters a glass with her voice. In the case of the Tacoma Narrows, the wind resonated with the natural frequency of the structure, causing a steady increase in amplitude until the bridge was destroyed.

The Lewis and Clark Expedition arrived at the Pacific Ocean on this date in 1805.

Federal Judge Douglas Ginsburg's nomination for the U.S. Supreme Court went up in smoke on this date in 1987. Ginsburg withdrew his name following criticism of his judicial ethics and his admission that he had used marijuana.

And it was on this date in 1991 that basketball star Earvin "Magic" Johnson disclosed he was infected with the virus that causes AIDS, and announced he was retiring from the Los Angeles Lakers. Johnson would play for the U.S. Olympic basketball team in 1992 and briefly consider rejoining the Lakers, only to retire for good later that year.

We now return you to the present, already in progress.

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