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Today In History – April 25 – James Richardson Exonerated After 21 Years





1719: Robinson Crusoe is published: Daniel Defoe’s fictional work The Life and Strange Adventures of Robinson Crusoe is published. The book, about a shipwrecked sailor who spends 28 years on a deserted island, is based on the experiences of shipwreck victims and of Alexander Selkirk, a Scottish sailor who spent four years on a small island off the coast of South America in the early 1700s. More here

1947: Truman inaugurates White House bowling alley: President Harry S. Truman officially opens the first White House bowling alley on this day in 1947. The two-lane bowling alley, situated in the West Wing, had been constructed earlier that year.

According to Smithsonian Magazine, a group of Truman’s fellow Missourians funded the construction of the bowling alley in honor of the president. They had intended to open the alley as part of Truman’s 63rd birthday celebration on May 8, but construction was completed ahead of schedule. Truman’s favorite pastime was poker and although he had not bowled since he was a teenager, he gamely hoisted the first ball, knocking down 7 out of 10 pins. One of the pins is now on display at the Smithsonian Institution.

Truman did not use the alley much himself, but supported a group of White House employees in forming a White House Bowling League in 1950. Teams included Secret Service agents, household staff, secretaries, switchboard operators and groundskeepers. The teams competed in tournaments across the country; many opponents were surprised to discover that the players were from the real White House.

Eisenhower closed the alley in 1955 and turned it into a mimeograph room. Later, another alley was opened next door in the Old Executive Office Building (now the Eisenhower Building), which President Johnson and his wife Lady Bird used frequently. Nixon used that second bowling alley until he had an additional one-lane alley installed underground directly beneath the North Portico entrance of the White House. More here

1980: Air tragedy hits Canary Islands: A Dan-Air Boeing 727 carrying British tourists to the Canary Islands crashes and kills all 146 on board on this day in 1980. This terrible crash came just three years after another even deadlier accident at the Canary Islands airport.

In 1977, a KLM jumbo jet had collided with a Pan Am plane on the runway; 570 people were killed. The collision occurred when communication problems between the planes and air-traffic controllers exacerbated already dangerous foggy conditions. The heavily accented English spoken by the Spanish-speaking air traffic controllers was partly to blame.

On April 25, 1980, similar problems at the same airport had tragic results. It was late morning and cloudy when a chartered jet arrived from Manchester, England. The plane was carrying 138 passengers, bound for the beaches of Tenerife, and 8 crew members. Inaccurate navigation by the pilots set the tragedy in motion; they told the air traffic controllers that they were a mile east of their actual position. More here

1983: Andropov writes to U.S. student: On this day in 1983, the Soviet Union releases a letter that Russian leader Yuri Andropov wrote to Samantha Smith, an American fifth-grader from Manchester, Maine, inviting her to visit his country. Andropov’s letter came in response to a note Smith had sent him in December 1982, asking if the Soviets were planning to start a nuclear war. At the time, the United States and Soviet Union were Cold War enemies. More here

1989: A father is exonerated after 21 years: James Richardson walks out of a Florida prison 21 years after being wrongfully convicted of killing his seven children. Special prosecutor Janet Reno agreed to the release after evidence showed that the conviction resulted from misconduct by the prosecutor. In addition, neighbor Betsy Reese had confessed to the crime to a nursing home employee. More here

1990: Space telescope in orbit: The crew of the U.S. space shuttle Discovery places the Hubble Space Telescope, a long-term space-based observatory, into a low orbit around Earth.

The space telescope, conceived in the 1940s, designed in the 1970s, and built in the 1980s, was designed to give astronomers an unparalleled view of the solar system, the galaxy, and the universe. Initially, Hubble’s operators suffered a setback when a lens aberration was discovered, but a repair mission by space-walking astronauts in December 1993 successfully fixed the problem, and Hubble began sending back its first breathtaking images of the universe. More here

2007: Boris Yeltsin’s funeral: The first to be sanctioned by the Russian Orthodox Church for a head of state since the funeral of Emperor Alexander III in 1894. Boris Yeltsin died of congestive heart failure on 23 April 2007 at the age of 76. According to experts quoted by Komsomolskaya Pravda, the onset of Yeltsin’s condition was due to his visit to Jordan between 25 March and 2 April.[46] He was buried in the Novodevichy Cemetery on 25 April 2007, following a period during which his body had lain in state in the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in Moscow. More here

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