A Year In History: 1976

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This Year in History:

1976

Discover what happened in this year with HISTORY’s summaries of major events, anniversaries, famous births and notable deaths.

January 23

Singer, actor, athlete, activist Paul Robeson dies

The singer, actor, athlete and activist Paul Robeson dies at the age of 79 on January 23, 1976. Robeson’s physical strength, size and grace made him one of the elite sports figures of his generation, but his stature in other fields—music, theater, politics, human rights— eventually overshadowed his athletic greatness. On stage and screen, his […]

May 8

The theme song from “Welcome Back, Kotter” is the #1 song in America

On May 8, 1976, John Sebastian’s playfully nostalgic theme song for the TV show “Welcome Back, Kotter” becomes the number one pop single in the U.S. The previous year, Sebastian, former member of the beloved ’60s pop group the Lovin’ Spoonful, was asked to write and record the theme song for a brand-new ABC television […]

May 15

Young woman and her married lover arrested for killing her family 

Patricia Columbo and Frank DeLuca are arrested for the brutal slaying of Columbo’s parents and brother in Elk Grove, Illinois. Twenty-year-old Columbo had left her family home two years earlier to live with DeLuca, a 36-year-old married man. The pair later killed Frank, Mary and Michael Columbo in order to receive the family inheritance, unaware […]

June 7

“New York” magazine publishes the story that becomes “Saturday Night Fever”

The article that inspired the blockbuster movie Saturday Night Fever—”The Tribal Rites of the New Saturday Night,” by journalist Nik Cohn—was published on this day in 1976 in the June 7 issue of New York magazine. Disco as a musical style predated the movie Saturday Night Fever by perhaps as many as five years, but […]

July 18

Gymnast Nadia Comăneci scores first perfect “10” in Olympic history

In her Olympic debut at the tender age of 14, Nadia Comăneci becomes the first gymnast to score a perfect 10 in Olympic history. The young Romanian’s performance at the Montreal Olympic Games launches her into the international spotlight. Comăneci stirred up excitement on the first day of the Montreal games—July 18, 1976—which began with […]

July 28

One of the worst earthquakes in modern history destroys Chinese city

At 3:42 a.m., an earthquake measuring between 7.8 and 8.2 magnitude on the Richter scale flattens Tangshan, a Chinese industrial city with a population of about one million people. As almost everyone was asleep in their beds, instead of outside in the relative safety of the streets, the quake was especially costly in terms of […]

July 30

Caitlyn Jenner wins Olympic decathlon

On July 30, 1976, American Caitlyn Jenner—who was competing as Bruce Jenner—wins gold in the men’s decathlon at the Montreal Olympics. Jenner’s 8,617 points set a world record in the event. The secret to Jenner’s success was preparation. In the 1970s, most decathletes trained with other decathletes. Jenner, however, trained with some of the world’s best athletes […]

August 5

NBA merges with ABA

On August 5, 1976, the National Basketball Association (NBA) merges with its rival, the American Basketball Association (ABA), and takes on the ABA’s four most successful franchises: the Denver Nuggets, the Indiana Pacers, the New York (later Brooklyn) Nets and the San Antonio Spurs. Founded in 1967 to fill the basketball void in areas not […]