Year
1980

ABSCAM operation revealed

On February 2, 1980, details of ABSCAM, an FBI operation to uncover political corruption in the government, are released to the public. Thirty-one public officials were targeted for investigation, including Representative John Murphy of New York, five other representatives, and Harrison Williams, a senator from New Jersey. In the operation, FBI agents posed as representatives of Abdul Enterprises, Ltd., a fictional business owned by an Arab sheik. Under FBI video surveillance, the agents met with the officials and offered them money or other considerations in exchange for special favors, such as the approval of government contracts for companies in which the sheik had invested.

Senator Williams, and Representatives Murphy, Michael J. Myers, Richard Kelly, and John W. Jenrette Jr., were ultimately convicted of bribery and corruption. All but Richard Kelly, who had his conviction overturned in 1982 on the basis that the FBI had unlawfully entrapped him, left Congress. John Murphy, whose term ended in 1981, was saved the fate of expulsion suffered by Williams and Myers. John Jenrette resigned in 1980.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Idi Amin takes power in Uganda

One week after toppling the regime of Ugandan leader Milton Obote, Major General Idi Amin declares himself president of Uganda and chief of the armed forces. Amin, head of the Ugandan army and air force since 1966, seized power while Obote was out of the country. Ruling directly, ...read more

Battle of Stalingrad ends

On this day, the last German troops in the Soviet city of Stalingrad surrender to the Red Army, ending one of the pivotal battles of World War II. On June 22, 1941, despite the terms of the Nazi-Soviet Pact of 1939, Nazi Germany launched a massive invasion against the USSR. Aided ...read more

First Groundhog Day

On this day in 1887, Groundhog Day, featuring a rodent meteorologist, is celebrated for the first time at Gobbler’s Knob in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. According to tradition, if a groundhog comes out of its hole on this day and sees its shadow, it gets scared and runs back into ...read more

Germans surrender at Stalingrad

On this day, the last of the German forces fighting at Stalingrad surrender, despite Hitler’s earlier declaration that “Surrender is out of the question. The troops will defend themselves to the last!” The Battle of Stalingrad began in the summer of 1942, as German forces ...read more

Antiwar protestors sue Dow Chemical

Antiwar protestors take legal action in an attempt to prove that the Dow Chemical Company is still making napalm. Dow had claimed that it had stopped making napalm. Members of the antiwar movement filed suit against the Dow Chemical Company in a Washington, D.C., court. The ...read more

National League of baseball is founded

On February 2, 1876, the National League of Professional Baseball Clubs, which comes to be more commonly known as the National League (NL), is formed. The American League (AL) was established in 1901 and in 1903, the first World Series was held. The first official game of ...read more

Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo is signed

On this day in 1848, the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo is signed, ending the Mexican-American War in favor of the United States. The Treaty of Guadeloupe Hidalgo added an additional 525,000 square miles to United States territory, including the area that would become the states of ...read more

Russians establish Fort Ross

Staking a tenuous claim to the riches of the Far West, Russians establish Fort Ross on the coast north of San Francisco. As a growing empire with a long Pacific coastline, Russia was in many ways well positioned to play a leading role in the settlement and development of the ...read more

James Joyce is born

Novelist James Joyce is born this day in Dublin, Ireland, the eldest of 10 children. His father, a cheerful ne’er-do-well, will eventually go bankrupt. Joyce attended Catholic school and University College in Dublin. A brilliant scholar, he learned Dano-Norwegian in order to read ...read more

Gene Kelly dies

On this day in 1996, the dancer, actor and choreographer Gene Kelly dies at the age of 83, at his home in Beverly Hills, California. Born in Pittsburgh in 1912, Kelly graduated with a degree in economics from the University of Pittsburgh during the Great Depression. With jobs ...read more

First Donner Party member dies

On this day in 1847, the first woman of a group of pioneers commonly known as the Donner Party dies during the group’s journey through a Sierra Nevada mountain pass. The disastrous trip west ended up killing 42 people and turned many of the survivors into cannibals. A total of 87 ...read more

Murder in Hollywood: A tale of vice and vixens

Police discover the body of film director William Desmond Taylor in his Los Angeles bungalow. Lieutenant Tom Ziegler responded to a call about a “natural death” at the Alvarado Street home of Taylor. Whenhe arrived they found actors, actresses, and studio executives rummaging ...read more

Albert Sidney Johnston born

On this day in 1803, Confederate General Albert Sidney Johnston is born in Washington, Kentucky. Johnston was considered one of the best Confederate commanders until he was killed at the Battle of Shiloh, Tennessee, the first major engagement in the West. Johnston grew up in ...read more