Updated:
Original:
Year
1977

The execution of Gary Gilmore

Gary Gilmore, convicted in a double murder, is shot to death by a firing squad in Utah, becoming the first person to be executed in the United States since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976.

In 1972, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that, in violation of the eighth Amendment to the Constitution, the death penalty qualified as “cruel and unusual punishment,” primarily because states used capital punishment in “arbitrary and capricious ways,” especially in regard to race. However, in 1976, with 66 percent of Americans supporting the death penalty, the court ended the constitutional ban on capital punishment, provided that states create specific guidelines for imposing death sentences. 

In 1977, Gilmore was the first person to be executed since the end of the ban. Defiantly facing a firing squad, Gilmore’s last words to his executioners before they shot him through the heart were “Let’s do it.”

FACT CHECK: We strive for accuracy and fairness. But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us!

ALSO ON THIS DAY

H-bomb lost in Spain

On this day, a B-52 bomber collides with a KC-135 jet tanker over Spain’s Mediterranean coast, dropping three 70-kiloton hydrogen bombs near the town of Palomares and one in the sea. It was not the first or last accident involving American nuclear bombs. As a means of maintaining ...read more

Americans overthrow Hawaiian monarchy

On the Hawaiian Islands, a group of American sugar planters under Sanford Ballard Dole overthrow Queen Liliuokalani, the Hawaiian monarch, and establish a new provincial government with Dole as president. The coup occurred with the foreknowledge of John L. Stevens, the U.S. ...read more

Boston thieves pull off historic robbery

On this day in 1950, 11 men steal more than $2 million from the Brink's Armored Car depot in Boston, Massachusetts. It was the perfect crime–almost–as the culprits weren’t caught until January 1956, just days before the statute of limitations for the theft expired. The robbery’s ...read more

Soviets capture Warsaw

On this day, Soviet troops liberate the Polish capital from German occupation. Warsaw was a battleground since the opening day of fighting in the European theater. Germany declared war by launching an air raid on September 1, 1939, and followed up with a siege that killed tens of ...read more

Nixon threatens President Thieu

President Richard Nixon warns South Vietnamese President Nguyen Van Thieu in a private letter that his refusal to sign any negotiated peace agreement would render it impossible for the United States to continue assistance to South Vietnam. Nixon’s National Security Advisor Henry ...read more

PGA is formed

On January 17, 1916, a group of golf professionals and several leading amateur golfers gather at the Taplow Club in New York City, in a meeting that will result in the founding of the Professional Golfers Association (PGA). The lunch meeting occurred at the invitation of Rodman ...read more

Anne Bronte is born

On this day in 1820, Anne Bronte, the youngest of the six Bronte children, is born in Yorkshire, England. Their mother died when Anne was still an infant, and the children were left largely to their own devices in the bleak parsonage in Haworth, a remote village in Yorkshire, ...read more

Sherman’s army rained in

On this day in 1865, Union General William T. Sherman’s army is rained in at Savannah, Georgia, as it waits to begin marching into the Carolinas. In the fall of 1864, Sherman and his army marched across Georgia and destroyed nearly everything in their path. Sherman reasoned that ...read more

Corvette unveiled at GM Motorama

On this day in 1953, a prototype Chevrolet Corvette sports car makes its debut at General Motors’ (GM) Motorama auto show at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City. The Corvette, named for a fast type of naval warship, would eventually become an iconic American muscle car and ...read more

Battle of Cowpens, South Carolina

Relying upon strategic creativity, Brigadier General Daniel Morgan and a mixed Patriot force rout British Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton and a group of Redcoats and Loyalists at the Battle of Cowpens on this day in 1781. Commander in chief of the Southern Army, Major ...read more