A Year In History: 1986

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This Year in History:


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

January 13

NCAA adopts controversial Proposition 48

On January 13, 1986, NCAA schools vote to adopt Proposition 48, a controversial regulation that mandates minimum high school grades and scores on standardized college entrance exames for student-athletes to participate in sports as freshmen. The proposition, which passes by a large margin, was not implemented until three years later. It would have a disproportional impact on […]

February 28

MLB commissioner suspends players in drug scandal

On February 28, 1986, Major League Baseball commissioner Peter Ueberroth suspends 11 players. including some of the sport’s biggest names, for their involvement with illegal drugs. The suspensions are the most severe in the baseball since the infamous “Black Sox Scandal” in 1919. The commissioner doles out lesser penalties to 14 other players for their use […]

April 26

Test triggers nuclear disaster at Chernobyl

On April 26, 1986, the world’s worst nuclear power plant accident occurs at the Chernobyl nuclear power station in the Soviet Union. Thirty-two people died and dozens more suffered radiation burns in the opening days of the crisis, but only after Swedish authorities reported the fallout did Soviet authorities reluctantly admit that an accident had […]

May 27

African American inventor Lonnie Johnson patents the Super Soaker water gun

On May 27, 1986, the U.S. Patent Office grants a patent to African American inventor Lonnie Johnson for his toy design simply titled ”Squirt Gun.” After a few name changes and additional patents, Johnson’s invention—ultimately re-named the “Super Soaker®”—would become the best-selling water toy of all time, eventually earning its rightful place in the American […]

June 4

Jonathan Pollard admits to selling top-secret information to Israel

Jonathan Pollard pleads guilty to espionage for selling top-secret U.S. military intelligence information to Israel. The former Navy intelligence analyst sold enough classified documents to fill a medium-sized room. Pollard was arrested in November 1985 after authorities learned that he had been meeting with Israeli agents every two weeks for the last year. He was […]

July 7

Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter spend wedding anniversary building Habitat for Humanity home

On July 7, 1986, former President Jimmy Carter and First Lady Rosalynn Carter spend a hot summer day in Chicago, celebrating their 40th wedding anniversary while building a home in the West Garfield Park neighborhood for the Georgia-based nonprofit Habitat for Humanity. The Carters helped build a new, four-unit townhouse, located at the southeast corner […]

July 15

Columbia Records parts ways with country legend Johnny Cash after 28 years

Johnny Cash’s 50-year country music career reaches a low point on July 15, 1986, when Columbia Records drops him from its roster after more than a quarter-century of history-making partnership, producing more than 60 albums. Columbia first signed Johnny Cash in 1958, using a lucrative contract to lure him away from Sun Records, his first […]

August 8

Spike Lee’s first feature, “She’s Gotta Have It,” premieres

On August 8, 1986, actor, writer and director Spike Lee’s first feature-length movie, She’s Gotta Have It, opens in theaters around the United States. Made on a shoestring budget, She’s Gotta Have It was a comedy about a young African American woman in Brooklyn, New York, and her three suitors. The movie launched Lee’s career […]