Today in History: April 12

The writer who gave the world young Ramona Quimby, her sister Beezus, Henry Huggins, Ellen Tebbits, Otis Spofford, and a mouse on a motorcycle—Beverly Cleary—is 100 today. “People tell me I don’t look a day over 80,” she told the Washington Post last week.

She stopped writing several years ago and lives now in a retirement community, but one can see that she is enjoying the present moment and the attention this milestone birthday is bringing to her characters, her books, and herself. The TODAY show interviewed Cleary recently (the interviewer, Jenna Bush Hager, is the daughter of a former president and granddaughter of one, which is today’s trivia):

Happy birthday, Beverly Cleary!

* * * *
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt died in office on this date in 1945. He was 63. He had been elected to his fourth term the previous November and inaugurated in January. After a strenuous working trip to Egypt and then to the Crimea for a wartime conference with Churchill and other world leaders, he returned in March and spoke to a joint session of Congress to report on his talks.

At that speech, for his first and only time as President, he publicly acknowledged his disability and delivered the speech seated in a chair. “I hope that you will pardon me for this unusual posture of sitting down during the presentation of what I want to say, but … it makes it a lot easier for me not to have to carry about ten pounds of steel around on the bottom of my legs,” he began. Five weeks later, he was dead.

* * * *
Harry S. Truman was sworn in as president later that same day.

* * * *
On this date in 1955, on the 10th anniversary of Roosevelt’s death, Dr. Thomas Francis announced the results of a field test of the Salk polio vaccine (FDR was believed to have polio; this is still being studied): the vaccine was generally safe, and, even better, it was found to be 60–94% effective against the development of the various polio viruses. Mass immunizations followed, and because of this immunization polio ceased to be the terrifying scourge it had been in this country for many decades.

* * * *
The American Civil War began on this date in 1861.

* * * *
Yuri Gagarin became the first man to orbit the earth 55 years ago today.

* * * *
Josephine Baker, who became world-famous as a singer and dancer in the 1920s in France, died on this date in 1975. She had celebrated her 50th anniversary in show business with a sell-out concert attended by top celebrities four nights earlier.

Paul Ford died 40 years ago today. Joe Louis died 35 years ago today.

* * * *
Jane Withers is 90 today. Montserrat Caballé is 83 today. Herbie Hancock is 75. Hancock and Joni Mitchell:

Ed O’Neill is 70. David Letterman is 69. Scott Turow is 67. David Cassidy is 67. Andy García is 60. Vince Gill is 59. Ron MacLean is 56. Shannen Doherty is 45. Claire Danes is 37. Brooklyn Decker is 29.

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One comment

  1. Julie · April 12, 2016

    Loved the interview with Beverly Cleary. She was a big, happy part of my childhood.

    Liked by 1 person

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