Spanish Influenza breaks out, Janet Reno is confirmed as the first female attorney general, and a massive earthquake and tsunami cripple Japan, all on this day.
1824: The United States Department of War creates the Bureau of Indian Affairs, then known as the Office of Indian Affairs, with Thomas L. McKenney appointed as the first head of the office.
1851: The first performance of the opera "Rigoletto" by Giuseppe Verdi takes place in Venice, Italy. The tragedy had a successful premiere and is considered by many to be the first of the operatic masterpieces of Verdi's middle-to-late career.
1861: The Constitution of the Confederate States of America is adopted. The document is similar to the U.S. Constitution, but there are crucial differences in tone and legal content, and having to do with the topics of states' rights and slavery.
1888: The Great Blizzard of 1888 begins along the eastern seaboard of the United States. Over the next four days, it would shut down commerce and result in more than 400 deaths.
1895: Shemp Howard, best known as a member of the Three Stooges comedy team, is born in Manhattan, N.Y. He was an older brother of both Moe Howard and Curly Howard as well as the "third stooge" in the early years of the act. He would rejoin the trio in May 1946 after Curly suffered a stroke.
1903: Lawrence Welk, the musician, accordionist, bandleader and television impresario who hosted "The Lawrence Welk Show" from 1955 to 1982, is born in Strasburg, N.D.
1918: The first cases of "Spanish Influenza" in the U.S. are reported. In the early morning, a private reported to the Army hospital at Fort Riley, Kansas, complaining of fever, sore throat and headache. By the afternoon, the hospital had more than 100 cases. In a week, there were 500. Over the course of that spring, 48 soldiers died at Fort Riley from what was later identified as a new strain of influenza. The strain, which got its name because the pandemic received greater press attention in Spain than in the rest of the world, would become the worst epidemic in American history, killing more than 600,000. Worldwide, the disease killed between 50 and 100 million people.
1926: Ralph Abernathy, a pastor and civil rights leader, is born in Linden, Ala. A close associate of Martin Luther King Jr. in the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Abernathy was with King in Memphis, Tenn., when he was assassinated. He took up leadership of the SCLC's Poor People's Campaign after King's assassination.
1931: Entrepreneur and media mogul Rupert Murdoch, the founder, chairman and CEO of global media holding company News Corporation, is born in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. News Corporation, the world's second-largest media conglomerate, owns Twentieth Century Fox, HarperCollins and The Wall Street Journal among its holdings.
1934: Sam Donaldson, a broadcast reporter, news anchor and a one-time White House correspondent, is born in El Paso, Texas.
1936: Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who was appointed by President Ronald Reagan in 1986 and is the longest-serving justice currently on the court, is born in Trenton, N.J.
1941: Nine months before the United States would enter World War II, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signs the Lend-Lease Act into law, allowing American-built war supplies to be shipped to the Allies on loan. Formally titled An Act to Further Promote the Defense of the United States, the act effectively ended the United States' pretense of neutrality in the war.
1946: Rudolf Höss, the first commandant of Auschwitz concentration camp, is captured by British troops. He was hanged in 1947 following a trial in Warsaw.
1950: Bobby McFerrin, the Grammy-winning singer and conductor best known for his 1988 hit song "Don't Worry, Be Happy," is born in Manhattan, N.Y.
1950: Film director Jerry Zucker (center), who directed the movies "Airplane!," "Top Secret" and "Ruthless People" with Jim Abrahams (left) and his brother David Zucker (right), is born in Milwaukee, Wis. Zucker also went on to direct the movies "Ghost," "First Knight" and "Rat Race," and co-wrote the scripts for the "Naked Gun" movies.
1952: Author Douglas Adams, best known as the author of "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy," which began in 1978 as a BBC radio comedy before developing into a series of five books that sold more than 15 million copies in his lifetime, is born in Cambridge, England. Adams, who also wrote the novels "Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency" and "The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul," died of a heart attack at the age of 49 on May 11, 2001.
1955: Oscar F. Mayer, the Bavarian-born American entrepreneur who founded the processed-meat company that bears his name, dies in his sleep at the age of 95 in Chicago, Ill.
1957: Adm. Richard E. Byrd, the aviator and explorer who claimed that his expeditions had been the first to reach the North Pole and the South Pole by air, dies of a heart ailment at the age of 68 in Boston, Mass. While there is some doubt about his North Pole claim, his South Pole claim is generally supported by a consensus of those who have examined the evidence.
1964: The movie "Becket," starring Richard Burton as Thomas Becket and Peter O'Toole as King Henry II, premieres in theaters. The movie would go on to earn the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay, and was nominated for 11 other awards, including Best Picture, Best Director and twice for Best Actor, for both Burton and O'Toole.
1966: Nation of Islam members Talmadge Hayer, Norman 3X Butler and Thomas 15X Johnson are convicted of the Feb. 21, 1965, murder of Malcolm X.
1968: Singer-songwriter Lisa Loeb, who launched her career in 1994 with the song "Stay (I Missed You)" from the "Reality Bites" soundtrack, is born in Bethesda, Md.
1968: Otis Redding posthumously receives a gold record for his single "(Sittin' on) The Dock of the Bay." Redding died at the age of 26 on Dec. 10, 1967, just three days after recording the song, which would become his biggest hit and the first posthumous No. 1 record on both the Billboard Hot 100 and R&B charts.
1969: Actor Terrence Howard, best known for his movie roles in "Mr. Holland's Opus," "Ray," "Crash," "Four Brothers," "Iron Man" and "Hustle & Flow," is born in Chicago, Ill. Howard earned Golden Globe and Academy Award nominations for his role in 2005's "Hustle & Flow."
1971: The sci-fi movie "THX 1138," directed by George Lucas in his feature film directorial debut, premieres in theaters. The movie stars Robert Duvall and Donald Pleasence and depicts a dystopian future in which the populace is controlled through android police officers and mandatory use of drugs that suppress emotion.
1971: Actor and stunt performer Johnny Knoxville, best known as a co-creator and cast member of the TV and film series "Jackass," is born Philip John Clapp in Knoxville, Tenn. Knoxville has also appeared in movies such as "The Dukes of Hazzard," "Men in Black II," "Walking Tall," "The Ringer" and "The Last Stand."
1977: The disaster film "Airport '77," starring an ensemble cast including Jack Lemmon, James Stewart, Joseph Cotten, Christopher Lee and Olivia de Havilland, premieres in theaters. The second sequel in the "Airport" franchise, the movie continued the box office success of the series, earning $30 million, and earned two Academy Award nominations for Best Art Direction and Best Costume Design.
1978: Bobby Hull of the Winnipeg Jets joins Gordie Howe by getting career goal number 1,000 in a game against the Quebec Nordiques.
1981: Rapper Paul Wall, who broke through in 2005 with his major-label debut album "The Peoples Champ," is born Paul Michael Slayton in Houston Texas. "The People's Champ" reached No. 1 on the Billboard 200, R&B and Rap album charts.
1982: Actress Thora Birch, best known for roles in movies such as "American Beauty" and "Ghost World," is born in Los Angeles, Calif.
1985: Mikhail Gorbachev becomes General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union three hours after the death of his predecessor, Konstantin Chernenko. Gorbachev was the party's first leader to have been born under Communist rule. As de facto ruler of the USSR, he tried to reform the stagnating Party and the state economy by introducing glasnost ("openness"), perestroika ("restructuring"), demokratizatsiya ("democratization") and uskoreniye ("acceleration" of economic development).
1989: Actor Anton Yelchin, best known for his roles in movies such as "Star Trek" (2009), "Terminator Salvation," "Fright Night" (2011), and "Like Crazy," is born in Leningrad, Russian SFSR, Soviet Union, which today is Saint Petersburg, Russia.
1993: Janet Reno is confirmed as U.S. attorney general by the United States Senate. She would be sworn in the next day, becoming the first female attorney general in American history. She went on to become the longest serving attorney general in the 20th century.
1997: Paul McCartney is knighted by Queen Elizabeth II for his services to music.
2002: Two columns of light are pointed skyward from ground zero in New York City as a memorial to the victims of the World Trade Center terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. It initially ran as a temporary installation until April 14, 2002, and was launched again in 2003 to mark the second anniversary of the attack. It has been repeated every year since on Sept. 11.
2004: Simultaneous explosions on four rush hour trains in Madrid, Spain, kill 191 people and wound 1,800 more. The official investigation found that the attacks, which came three days before Spain's general elections, were directed by an al-Qaeda-inspired terrorist cell. A total of 21 people were found guilty on a range of charges from forgery to murder for their roles in the attacks.
2006: Slobodan Milosevic, the former Serbian and Yugoslavian president charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity in connection with the wars in Bosnia, Croatia and Kosovo, is found dead from a heart attack in his cell in the UN war crimes tribunal's detention center in The Hague, Netherlands.
2007: Actress and singer Betty Hutton, celebrated as a blond bombshell of Hollywood musicals and comedies in the 1940s and 50s, dies from complications of colon cancer at the age of 86 in Palm Springs, Calif. Hutton appeared in movies such as "Annie Get Your Gun" (pictured), "The Greatest Show on Earth," "Happy Go Lucky," "The Fleet's In" and "Miracle of Morgan's Creek."
2009: Recent graduate Tim Kretschmer, 17, shoots and kills nine students and three teachers at Albertville-Realschule, a secondary school in Winnenden, Germany. After fleeing the scene and killing another three people, Kretschmer fatally shoots himself during a shootout with police at a car dealership in a nearby town. Another nine people were injured by Kretschmer in the shooting, which led to tightened weapons restrictions in Germany.
2010: Merlin Olsen, a former NFL player who also starred in the TV shows "Little House on the Prairie" and "Father Murphy," dies of peritoneal mesothelioma at the age of 69 in Duarte, Calif. Olsen, a member of both the Pro Football Hall of Fame and the College Football Hall of Fame, won the Outland Trophy at Utah State as the nation's best college interior lineman. He was drafted with the third overall pick by the Los Angeles Rams in 1962 and played his entire 15-year career with the team, earning a spot in 14 Pro Bowls.
2011: An earthquake measuring 9.0 in magnitude strikes 81 miles east of Sendai, Japan, triggering a tsunami, killing more than 15,000 people and causing a nuclear emergency. Another 6,135 people were injured and 2,694 people left missing. It was the most powerful known earthquake ever to have hit Japan, and one of the five most powerful earthquakes in the world since modern record-keeping began in 1900.
2011: Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker signs a measure to eliminate most union rights for public employees, a proposal which had provoked three weeks of protests at the Wisconsin State Capitol building in Madison.
2011: NFL owners and players break off labor negotiations hours before their contract expired. The union then decertified and the league imposed a lockout that would last more than four months.
Sign up for Breaking News, Daily Headlines, Severe Weather Alerts & more!