A Year In History: 1988

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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 31

Doug Williams leads Redskins to Super Bowl victory

On January 31, 1988, in San Diego, California, Doug Williams of the Washington Redskins—now known as the Washington Commanders—becomes the first African American quarterback to play in a Super Bowl, scoring four of Washington’s five touchdowns in an upset 42-10 victory over the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XXII. Denver was favored to win the game, and […]

February 14

Olympic speed skater Dan Jansen falls after sister dies

On February 14, 1988, U.S. speed skater Dan Jansen, a favorite to win the gold medal in the 500-meter race at the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary, falls during competition, only hours after learning his sister had died of cancer. Jansen suffered disappointment after disappointment in the Olympics, earning him a reputation as “the heartbreak […]

February 24

Supreme Court defends right to satirize public figures

The U.S. Supreme Court votes 8-0 to overturn the $200,000 settlement awarded to the Reverend Jerry Falwell for his emotional distress at being parodied in Hustler, a pornographic magazine. In 1983, Hustler ran a piece parodying Falwell’s first sexual experience as a drunken, incestuous, childhood encounter with his mother in an outhouse. Falwell, a religious […]

March 10

Disco sensation Andy Gibb dies at the age of 30

With his heart greatly weakened from years of cocaine abuse, musician Andy Gibb succumbs to an inflammatory heart virus on March 10, 1988. He was only 30 years old. With his knee-buckling good looks and his brothers’ songwriting talents backing him up, 19-year-old Andy Gibb staged an unprecedented display of youthful pop mastery in the […]

March 12

Hail causes stampede at soccer match in Nepal

On March 12, 1988, a sudden hail storm prompts fans at a soccer match in Kathmandu, Nepal, to flee. The resulting stampede killed at least 70 people and injured hundreds more. Approximately 30,000 people were watching the game between the Nepalese home team, Janakpur, and Muktijoddha, of Bangladesh, at the National Stadium. A storm approached quickly […]

April 28

Aloha Airlines Flight 243 miraculously lands after losing roof

On April 28, 1988, a seemingly routine, 35-minute flight from Hilo to Honolulu turns into terror when an 18-foot-long section of the upper fuselage suddenly tears off Aloha Airlines Flight 243. The explosive decompression and roof loss sweep flight attendant Clarabelle “C.B.” Lansing off the Boeing 737, send freezing winds of hurricane force through the […]

May 15

Soviets begin withdrawal from Afghanistan

More than eight years after they intervened in Afghanistan to support the procommunist government, Soviet troops begin their withdrawal. The event marked the beginning of the end to a long, bloody, and fruitless Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. In December 1979, Soviet troops first entered Afghanistan in an attempt to bolster the communist, pro-Soviet government threatened […]

June 25

Teenager Debbie Gibson earns a #1 hit with “Foolish Beat”

On June 25, 1988, 17-year-old Debbie Gibson becomes the youngest person ever to write, produce and perform her own #1 pop single when her single “Foolish Beat” reaches the top of the Biilboard Hot 100. Contrary to what some critics of teen pop might imagine, pop sensation Debbie Gibson saw herself not as the next […]

July 20

“Die Hard” debuts, makes Bruce Willis a movie star

On July 20, 1988, Die Hard, an action film starring Bruce Willis as wisecracking New York City cop John McClane, opens in theaters across the United States. A huge box-office hit, the film established Willis as a movie star and spawned three sequels. Die Hard also became Hollywood shorthand for describing the plot of other […]

July 23

Guns N’ Roses make popular breakthrough with “Sweet Child O’ Mine”

On July 23, 1988, the band Guns N’ Roses made its big popular breakthrough when their first hit single, “Sweet Child O’ Mine” entered the Billboard Top 40. In the 1980s, Los Angeles was a mecca for so-called “glam rock” bands and the “sex, drugs and rock and roll” lifestyle with which they came to […]

August 8

Gangsta rap hits the mainstream with the release of N.W.A’s “Straight Outta Compton”

As of 1988, the top-selling hip hop albums of all time were Run D.M.C.’s Raising Hell and the Beastie Boys’ License to Ill, both released in 1987 and both selling millions without ruffling many feathers. In June 1988, Public Enemy released It Takes A Nation of Millions To Hold Us Back, an album that broke […]

August 18

A Seattle judge involved in a sex scandal dies by suicide

The Honorable Gary M. Little shoots himself just hours before the Seattle Post-Intelligencer releases an article accusing him of abusing his power by sexually exploiting juvenile defendants who appeared before him. The front-page article also suggested that he had exploited his teenage students as a teacher in the 1960s and 1970s. The scandal raised questions about […]