Year
1970

Blackmun confirmed to Supreme Court

The Senate confirms President Richard M. Nixon’s nomination of Federal Circuit Judge Harry A. Blackmun to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Blackmun, born in Nashville, Illinois, in 1908, was regarded as a staunch conservative when he joined the nation’s highest court as an associate justice in 1970. Widely praised for his scholarly and carefully drafted opinions, Blackmun was initially allied with other Republican appointees on the court, but all that changed in 1973 with the Roe v. Wade decision. Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion in America, was authored by Blackmun and thus made him one of the most vilified Supreme Court members in U.S. history.

During the 1980s, he became a champion of maintaining a strict separation between church and state and often cast liberal votes in cases pitting individual liberties against governmental authority. By the time he retired in 1994, he was considered the high court’s most liberal justice; although he often claimed that the court’s politics had changed more than his own. He died in 1999 at the age of 90.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

George VI crowned at Westminster

At London’s Westminster Abbey, George VI and his consort, Lady Elizabeth, are crowned king and queen of the United Kingdom as part of a coronation ceremony that dates back more than a millennium. George, who studied at Dartmouth Naval College and served in World War I, ascended ...read more

Berlin blockade lifted

On May 12, 1949, an early crisis of the Cold War comes to an end when the Soviet Union lifts its 11-month blockade against West Berlin. The blockade had been broken by a massive U.S.-British airlift of vital supplies to West Berlin’s two million citizens. At the end of World War ...read more

Lyndon B. Johnson visits South Vietnam

Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson meets with South Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem in Saigon during his tour of Asian countries. Calling Diem the “Churchill of Asia,” he encouraged the South Vietnamese president to view himself as indispensable to the United States and promised ...read more

Heavy fighting erupts in A Shau Valley

The first major battle of Operation Lam Son 720 takes place as North Vietnamese forces hit the same South Vietnamese 500-man marine battalion twice in one day. Each time, the communists were pushed back after heavy fighting. Earlier, the South Vietnamese reportedly destroyed a ...read more

Ernie Banks hits 500th home run

On this day in 1970, Chicago Cubs slugger Ernie Banks hits the 500th home run of his career. “Mr. Cub” was known for his engaging personality and love of the game, traits on display even as the dismal Cubs suffered through losing season after losing season. The Chicago White ...read more

Fur trader William Sublette heads west

The fur trader William Sublette leads a pack train out of Independence, Missouri, heading west for a disastrous rendezvous at Pierre’s Hole, Idaho. William Sublette was the eldest of five brothers who were all associated with the fur trade. Sometime between 1816 and 1817, his ...read more

Bob Dylan walks out on The Ed Sullivan Show

By the end of the summer of 1963, Bob Dylan would be known to millions who watched or witnessed his performances at the March on Washington, and millions more who did not know Dylan himself would know and love his music thanks to Peter, Paul and Mary’s smash-hit cover version of ...read more

Katharine Hepburn born

On this day in 1907, Katharine Hepburn, who due to her performances in such films as The Philadelphia Story and On Golden Pond, will become one of the most celebrated actresses of the 20th century, is born in Hartford, Connecticut. The daughter of New England intellectuals who ...read more

Forest fire sweeps across China

Firefighters finally contain a giant fire sweeping eastward across China on this day in 1987, but not before 193 people are killed. The fateful fire began on May 6 in Mohe County of the Heilongjiang Province. From the outset, authorities mishandled the blaze, failing to contain ...read more

Body of Lindbergh baby found

The body of aviation hero Charles Lindbergh’s baby is found on this day in 1932, more than two months after he was kidnapped from his family’s Hopewell, New Jersey, mansion. Lindbergh, who became the first worldwide celebrity five years earlier when he flew The Spirit of St. ...read more

American ship Mayaguez seized

The American freighter Mayaguez is captured by communist government forces in Cambodia, setting off an international incident. The U.S. response to the affair indicated that the wounds of the Vietnam War still ran deep. On May 12, 1975, the U.S. freighter Mayaguez and its 39-man ...read more