1861 - Texas seceded from the United States, but didn't join the Confederate States of America until March 2nd - at which time its governor, Sam Houston, was replaced for refusing to take an oath of allegiance to the Confederacy.
1865 - President Abraham Lincoln signed the Thirteenth Amendment to the US Constitution, which outlawed slavery; it also banned involuntary servitude, except as punishment for a crime. Sadly, this highlight of Lincoln's life occurred on the 15th anniversary of the death of his second son by First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln, Edward Baker Lincoln.
1893 - Inventor Thomas Edison completed work on the world's first motion picture studio in West Orange, New Jersey; films produced at the facility were supervised by William Kennedy Dickson.
1922 - Film director William Desmond Taylor was found murdered in his bungalow at the Alvarado Court Apartments in the Westlake Park area of downtown Los Angeles; so popular in life was he that there were a dozen possible suspects, including his former manservant Edward Sands, his current manservant Henry Peavey, actress (and possible lover) Mabel Normand, Faith Cole MacLean (the wife of actor Douglas MacLean, who were his neighbours), Charles Eyton (General Manager of Paramount Pictures and therefore Taylor's boss), actress Mary Miles Minter (whose career Taylor guided in and out of the bedroom), Minter's mother Charlotte Shelby, and Margaret Gibson - who, on her deathbed in 1964, confessed to having committed the murder. Gore Vidal's 1990 novel Hollywood features a fictionalized account of the Taylor murder, and for those who prefer an even more lurid and yet less accurate perspective, try Kenneth Anger's 1959 book Hollywood Babylon. Despite the impressive line-up of suspects the case remains unsolved.
1960 - Four black students - Ezell A. Blair Jr. (now known as Jibreel Khazan), David Richmond, Joseph McNeil, and Franklin McCain - staged the first of the Greensboro Sit-Ins at a lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina.
1978 - Film director Roman Polanski skipped bail and fled to France following his arrest and guilty plea for the statutory rape of 13 year-old Samantha Gailey.
1979 - Patty Hearst was released from prison, having had her sentence commuted by President Jimmy Carter.
1982 - Late Night with David Letterman began airing on NBC; the show would air for 11 years, after which Letterman - and his show - moved to CBS, where it has been ever since.
1988 - Child actress Heather O'Rourke - famous for portraying Carol Anne Freeling in the Poltergeist film trilogy and for her role on Happy Days as Heather Pfister - died; she was 12. Misdiagnosed with Crohn's disease, she died en route to hospital of a heart attack brought on by septic shock which was itself a result of intestinal stenosis, although at the time it was announced in the press that she'd died of influenza.
1992 - A Chief Judicial Magistrate in India declared Warren Anderson, the ex-CEO of Union Carbide, a fugitive under Indian law for failing to appear in the Bhopal Disaster case.
1996 - Congress passed the Communications Decency Act, protecting Americans from the kind of smut that makes life worth living.
1999 - 22-year-old former White House intern Monica Lewinsky gave a deposition that was videotaped for senators weighing impeachment charges against President Bill Clinton.
2009 - The Pittsburgh Steelers won their record sixth Super Bowl with a 27-23 victory over the Arizona Cardinals in Super Bowl XLIII.
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