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Today In History – April 03 – Secretary of Commerce Ron Brown Killed in Plane Crash in Croatia





1860: Pony Express debuts: On this day in 1860, the first Pony Express mail, traveling by horse and rider relay teams, simultaneously leaves St. Joseph, Missouri, and Sacramento, California. Ten days later, on April 13, the westbound rider and mail packet completed the approximately 1,800-mile journey and arrived in Sacramento, beating the eastbound packet’s arrival in St. Joseph by two days and setting a new standard for speedy mail delivery. Although ultimately short-lived and unprofitable, the Pony Express captivated America’s imagination and helped win federal aid for a more economical overland postal system. It also contributed to the economy of the towns on its route and served the mail-service needs of the American West in the days before the telegraph or an efficient transcontinental railroad. More here

1948: Truman signs Marshall Plan: On April 3, 1948, U.S. President Harry S. Truman signs into law the Foreign Assistance Act, commonly known as the Marshall Plan. Named after U.S. Secretary of State George C. Marshall, the program channeled more than $13 billion in aid to Europe between 1948 and 1951. Meant to spark economic recovery in European countries devastated by World War II, the plan also saved the United States from a postwar recession by providing a broader market for American goods. However, because the USSR prevented countries like Poland and Czechoslovakia from participating, the plan also contributed to the raising of the “Iron Curtain” between Eastern and Western Europe. More here

1948: The Louisiana Hayride radio program premieres on KWKH-AM Shreveport: Even the most ardent non-fans of country music can probably name the weekly live show and radio program that is regarded as country music’s biggest stage: the Grand Ole Opry, out of Nashville, Tennessee. Yet even many committed country fans are unfamiliar with a program that, during its 1950s heyday, eclipsed even the Opry in terms of its impact on country music itself. From its premiere on this day in 1948 to its final weekly show in 1960, The Lousiana Hayride, out of Shreveport, Louisiana, launched the careers not only of several country-music giants, but also of a young, genre-crossing singer named Elvis Presley, the future King of Rock and Roll. More here

1974: Series of deadly twisters hits U.S. heartland: On this day in 1974, 148 tornadoes hit the United States heartland within 16 hours. By the time the deadly storm ended, 330 people had died. This was the largest grouping of tornadoes recorded in its time, affecting 11 states and Ontario, Canada. At any one moment during the storm, there were as many as 15 separate tornadoes touching the ground.

The storm began over the Ohio River Valley. The first twister hit Lincoln, Illinois, at about 2 p.m. and, within hours, others made landfall over a range of hundreds of miles across several states. The deadly storm did not end until early the next morning. In all, it caused 22 F4 tornadoes, with winds over 207 mph, and six F5 tornadoes, with winds over 261 mph.

Brandenburg, Kentucky, was also badly hit. The town lost 31 people and 250 were seriously hurt. The entire downtown was demolished, causing many millions of dollars in damages. In Indiana, a school bus was pushed 400 feet off a road, killing the driver. The Tennessee Valley Authority suffered the worst damage to its power operations to that date.

In all, 50,000 people were directly impacted by the tornadoes. Six states were declared federal disaster areas. More here

1996: United States Secretary of Commerce Ron Brown Killed in plane crash in Croatia: On April 3, 1996, a United States Air Force CT-43A crashed in Croatia while on an official trade mission. The aircraft, a Boeing 737-253 built as a T-43 navigation trainer, was carrying United States Secretary of Commerce Ron Brown and 34 other people, including The New York Times Frankfurt Bureau chief Nathaniel C. Nash. While attempting an instrument approach to Dubrovnik Airport, the airplane crashed into a mountainside killing everyone onboard. Air Force Tech. Sgt Shelly Kelly initially survived the impact of the crash but died from her injuries hours later in an ambulance.

Ronald Harmon “Ron” Brown (August 1, 1941–April 3, 1996) was the United States Secretary of Commerce, serving during the first term of President Bill Clinton. He was the first African American to hold this position. More here. More on Ron Brown here and here

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