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Today in Legal History: Apollo 11 Mission

President John F. Kennedy predicted in 1960 that by the end of the decade the country would put a man on the moon and return him home safely.  The triumphant Apollo 11 moon landing on July 20, 1969, began an era of moon exploration that has so far gone unrivaled.  American astronauts Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin became the first humans to land on the moon. About six and a half hours after landing, Armstrong became the first person to walk on the moon.

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Today in Legal History: Truman Orders U.S. Troops to Korea

On June 27, 1950, President Truman ordered U.S. Air and Naval forces to join forces with South Korea’s army in order to prevent the communist conquest of the independent nation.  Two days earlier, 90,000 communist troops of the North Korean Army invaded South Korea, prompting a U.N. Security Council emergency meeting and the call for a cease-fire order.  Truman’s action, in the midst of the Cold War, met with approval from Congress and the U.S. public. The Korean War continued until July 27, 1953, when after two years of negotiations an armistice was signed and the war ended.

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Today in Legal History: Statue of Liberty Arrives in New York

The Statue of Liberty arrived in New York Harbor on June 19, 1885. The statue was a gift from France to the United States commemorating the centennial of the American Declaration of Independence. The 151-foot statue, Liberty Enlightening the World, was designed by Frederic-Auguste Bartholdi, and was dismantled into 350 pieces to be transported to the United States. The statue took four months to reassemble on Bedloe’s Island where it remains a symbol of freedom and democracy to the nation and the world.

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Today in Legal History: Flag Day

On June 14, 1777, the Continental Congress adopted the stars and stripes design for the flag of the United States. While the first national observance of Flag Day occurred on June 14, 1877, the centennial of the adoption of the flag, it was not an official national observance until years later. President Wilson in 1916, and President Coolidge again in 1927, issued proclamations asking for June 14th to be observed as National Flag Day. However, Congress did not approve the national observance until August 3, 1949, and President Truman signed it into law.

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Today in Legal History: Memorial Day

Memorial Day, initially called Decoration Day, was first observed on May 30, 1868, to honor the Civil War soldiers who died in battle by decorating their graves. While Memorial Day was celebrated in the years following 1868, it was not declared a national holiday until 1971 when Congress declared it be celebrated on the last Monday of May. Today, Americans celebrate Memorial Day by visiting cemeteries or memorials, participating in parades, and gathering with family and friends.

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Today in Legal History: Norway’s Constitution Day


Syttende Mai (May 17th) is Norway’s Constitution Day. Norway had been a part of the Danish Autocracy for 400 years, and on May 17, 1814, Norway signed the constitution that declared the country an independent nation. The Norwegian Parliament held the first Syttende Mai celebration in 1836—even though they would not become fully independent until 1905—and from then on the day became Norway’s official National Day.

While Syttende Mai is a national holiday in Norway, it is also a big event here in Seattle. The holiday has been a popular Ballard neighborhood celebration since 1974, with food and activities for the whole family.

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Today in Legal History: First White House Bowling Alley Opens

Truman opened the first White House bowling alley on April 25, 1947. It was a birthday present from his friends. Truman’s first frame was 7 pins (out of 10). One of these pins is now on exhibition with the Smithsonian. Truman wasn’t much of a bowler, and didn’t use the facility much, but White House employees did. White House employees, including Secret Service and custodial staff, started a league. Opposing teams were surprised to find out that the team was, in fact, from the White House.

Eisenhower closed the first alley to make a mimeograph room, but built a second two-lane alley in 1955 in the old Executive Building. President and Lady Bird Johnson made good use of the lanes. Nixon was an avid bowler, so much so he paid for another single-lane, built under the driveway leading to the North Portico of the White House.

The White House Bowling League lives on, although the White House lanes were no longer accessible to the League after 9/11.

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Today in Legal History: Shakespeare Born

“The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.” – 2 King Henry IV, 2

The exact date of Shakespeare’s birth is not known, but based on available evidence, April 23, 1564 was his probable birthday. Admittedly, historians also like the date because Shakespeare died on the same day.

Many of Shakespeare’s plays concerned lawyers or trials; Twelfth Night, Merchant of Venice, and Measure for Measure are but three examples.

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Today in Legal History: Earth Day

Before 1970 there were no legal or regulatory devices to protect the environment. In the spring of 1970, Senator Gaylord Nelson, inspired by the student anti-war movement, created Earth Day as a way to force environmental protection onto the national political agenda. On April 22, 1970, Earth Day was observed by millions of Americans who took to the streets, parks, and auditoriums to rally for a healthy, sustainable environment. Earth Day was a huge success, and in December 1970 Congress authorized the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency to tackle environmental issues.

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Today in Legal History: Bay of Pigs Invasion

On April 17, 1961, a CIA-backed group of Cuban refugees tried to invade Cuba at the Bay of Pigs. As soon as the party landed, they were met with resistance from Castro’s forces, and promised US air support never materialized. Of the 1,200 exiles trying to recapture their homeland, 100 died and the rest were captured.

Not only did the plan fail, it made the situation in Cuba even less desirable to the US government. Castro was able to put pressure on his Soviet allies for more support, and denounced the US to the world. Far from displacing Castro, the actions of the CIA cemented Castro’s control on Cuba, and made new president John F. Kennedy look weak and indecisive.

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