Year
1966

Architect of apartheid assassinated

South African Prime Minister Hendrik Verwoerd is stabbed to death by a deranged messenger during a parliamentary meeting in Cape Town. The assailant, Demetrio Tsafendas, was a Mozambique immigrant of mixed racial descent–part Greek and part Swazi.

As minister of native affairs and later as South African leader, Verwoerd oversaw the introduction and application of South Africa’s racist apartheid policies. As prime minister from 1958, he instituted an intricate system of laws separating whites, Africans (blacks), Coloureds, and Asians, and resettled blacks in backwater reservations. These policies provoked anti-apartheid demonstrations by blacks, which were brutally crushed by government forces at Sharpeville and elsewhere. When, in April 1960, Verwoerd miraculously survived being shot twice in the head by an English farmer, he proclaimed that his survival was evidence of God’s approval of his work. During the next few years, Verwoerd’s government arrested anti-apartheid leaders such as Nelson Mandela and sentenced them to long prison terms on the basis of various convictions.

Verwoerd had succeeded in temporarily crushing anti-apartheid resistance, but he could not prevent a schizophrenic parliamentary page from walking up to him in the Houses of Assembly and stabbing him to death on September 6, 1966. Tsafendas, who apparently was not acting in protest of apartheid, was sent to a mental hospital near Johannesburg, where he lived until his death in 1999. Apartheid was abolished in South Africa in 1993.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

First tank produced

On this day in 1915, a prototype tank nicknamed Little Willie rolls off the assembly line in England. Little Willie was far from an overnight success. It weighed 14 tons, got stuck in trenches and crawled over rough terrain at only two miles per hour. However, improvements were ...read more

Italian resistance fighters persevere

On this day in 1944, British intelligence receives word that, despite setbacks, Italian guerillas fighting the German occupiers of their country are continuing to widen their activity.Since the Italian surrender in the summer of 1943, German troops had occupied wider swaths of ...read more

First Battle of the Marne begins

On September 6, 1914, some 30 miles northeast of Paris, the French 6th Army under the command of General Michel-Joseph Manoury attacks the right flank of the German 1st Army, beginning the decisive First Battle of the Marne at the end of the first month of World War I.After ...read more

Thieu abolishes popular elections

South Vietnamese President Thieu abolishes popular elections in the country’s 10,775 hamlets and supercedes a 1968 law establishing the election of hamlet and village officers. The 44 province chiefs, all appointed by Thieu, were ordered to reorganize local government and ...read more

Ho Chi Minh to be succeeded by committee

South Vietnam’s Communist Party newspaper Nhan Dan and Radio Hanoi announce that Ho Chi Minh is to be succeeded by a committee of leadership consisting of Le Duan, first secretary of the party; Truong Chin, member of the Politburo and chairman of the National Assembly; General Vo ...read more

Ripken breaks record for consecutive games played

On this day in 1995, Baltimore Orioles shortstop Cal Ripken Jr. plays in his 2,131st consecutive game, breaking “Iron Horse” Lou Gehrig’s record for most consecutive games played. “The Iron Man” was credited with reviving interest in baseball after a 1994 work stoppage forced the ...read more

President William McKinley is shot

On this day in 1901, President William McKinley is shaking hands at the Pan-American Exhibition in Buffalo, New York, when a 28-year-old anarchist named Leon Czolgosz approaches him and fires two shots into his chest. The president rose slightly on his toes before collapsing ...read more

John C. Fremont reaches the Great Salt Lake

On this day in 1844, the western explorer John C. Fremont arrives at the shores of the Great Salt Lake, one of the many areas he will map for the lasting benefit of a westward-moving nation.When Fremont reached the strange saltwater inland lake (a remnant of the much larger ...read more

Train derails on way to New York

A new high-speed train traveling between New York City and Washington, D.C., derails, killing 79 people, on this day in 1943. An apparent defect in an older car attached to the train combined with the placement of a signal gantry resulted in the deadly accident.The Congressional ...read more

Volkswagen moves to Virginia

On this day in 2007, Volkswagen of America announces that it is moving its headquarters from Auburn Hills, Michigan to Herndon, Virginia. The company made the move, it said, to be closer to the East-Coasters who buy most of its cars. “You want to work in an environment where you ...read more