This Day in History

Today is Thursday, December 20th, the 354th day of the year.  There are 11 days until the end of the year.

On this day:

In 1803, the United States purchased the Louisiana Territory from France for 15-million-dollars.

In 1928, mail delivery by sled dog began in Lewiston, Maine.

In 1938, the iconoscope television was patented by Vladimir Zworykin.

In 1956, the city of Montgomery, Alabama, removed race-based seat assignments on its city's buses.  The bus integration ended a boycott by the area's black commuters that began a year earlier after Rosa Parks refused to surrender her bus seat to a white man.

In 1957, Elvis Presley received his draft notice calling him for service in the U.S. Army.

In 1963, the Berlin Wall opened for the first time.

In 1968, novelist John Steinbeck died at the age of 66.  He penned such classics as "Grapes of Wrath" and "Of Mice and Men."

In 1973, Hall-of-Fame singer Bobby Darin died during open-heart surgery at the age of 37.

In 1980, NBC broadcast the football game between the New York Jets and the Miami Dolphins without any announcers in the booth.  The only sounds heard during the telecast were crowd and field noise.

In 1988, ABC news anchor Max Robinson died from AIDS-related complications at the age of 49.  Robinson was the first black anchor of a major network newscast. 

In 1991, Robert Bardo was sentenced to life in prison without parole for stalking and murdering "My Sister Sam" actress Rebecca Schaeffer.

In 1996,  astronomer Carl Sagan died at the age of 62. 

In 1997, President Nelson Mandela stepped down as leader of South Africa's governing African National Congress.

In 1999, country music legend Hank Snow died in Nashville, Tennessee at the age of 85. 

In 2002, amid controversy over remarks he made at a birthday party for retiring South Carolina Senator Strom Thurmond, Republican Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott resigned from his post.  Lott drew fire after he suggested at that the country would have been better off had Americans voted in Thurmond as president when he ran for office in 1948 on the segregationist Dixiecrat platform. 

In 2009, 32-year-old actress Brittany Murphy died suffering full cardiac arrest.  Murphy's film credits included the movies "8 Mile," "Clueless," "Just Married and "Sin City."

In 2015, "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" made a record-breaking 238-million dollars during the weekend box office in the U.S. and Canada.

In 2015, Steve Harvey announced the wrong winner when crowning Miss Universe 2015 in Las Vegas.  Harvey named Miss Colombia as the winner but she was actually the first runner-up.  Miss Philippines had previously been named first-runner up, but was actually Miss Universe.  Steve Harvey apologized after Miss Colombia had already been given the crown and sash.

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