January 20 in History

“The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.”―Franklin D. Roosevelt, Second Inaugural Address, delivered on this date in 1937

The first Presidential Inauguration held on January 20 was Franklin Roosevelt’s second inaugural (seen at top), 80 years ago today.

The 20th Amendment, ratified in 1933, pushed back the date for the start of a new presidential term from March 4 to January 20 in recognition that the length of time needed to notify winners and losers and transport a new president-elect to Washington, DC, was much shorter than it had been. Roosevelt was inaugurated twice more on two subsequent January 20s.

There have been twenty swearings-in of U.S. Presidents on January 20; today’s will be the twenty-first.

Nineteen of the inaugurations were public. In 1985, the weather in Washington, DC, was arctic: 7 °F at noon, so President Reagan was sworn in at noon on the 20th indoors (a photo was released to the media), and the public inauguration was held on the 21st.

* * * *
The Wannsee Conference, a meeting of senior officials of Nazi Germany, was held 75 years ago today in Wannsee, near Berlin. It was convened by SS-Obergruppenführer Reinhard Heydrich to discuss “the Final Solution to the Jewish Question.”

* * * *
The Iran hostage crisis, in which several dozen American diplomats and citizens were held hostage in the former U.S. Embassy in Tehran (the final number of hostages was 52), ended 36 years ago today after 444 days.

* * * *
Edward, the eldest son of King George V, became King Edward VIII upon the death of his father on this date in 1936. His reign would last a total of 11 months, which was one month shorter than his own father’s prediction: “After I am dead, the boy will ruin himself in 12 months.”

* * * *
John Ruskin died on this date in 1900. Beatrice Lillie died in 1989 on this date. Audrey Hepburn died on this date in 1993. Gerry Mulligan died on this date in 1996. Curt Flood died 20 years ago today.

Edith Haisman died on this date 20 years ago. She was 100. She was the last survivor of the sinking of RMS Titanic who was old enough at the time of the disaster to have memories of the event till the day she died. As the lifeboat she and her mother were in was lowered away from the damaged ship, she saw her father on deck, seated in his Edwardian suit jacket and smoking a cigar and sipping a brandy. (The Titanic story would make quite a film, wouldn’t it? Someone ought to … what’s that? Oh, never mind.)

Seven other survivors were still alive when Miss Haisman died, but each had been an infant in April 1912 when the ship sank and so did not have nightmarish memories. (Millvina Dean, the last survivor, died in 2009.)

Etta James died five years ago today.

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Lead Belly was born on this date in 1888. George Burns was born on this date in 1895. DeForest Kelley was born on this date in 1920. Federico Fellini was born in 1920 on this date. Slim Whitman was born in 1923 on this date.

* * * *
Arte Johnson is 88 today. Buzz Aldrin is 87 today. Tom Baker (the Fourth Doctor in Doctor Who) is 83 today. David Lynch is 71 today. Edward Hirsch is 67. Paul Stanley (KISS) is 65 today. Bill Maher is 61 today. (His HBO show returns for its 15th season tonight.) Rainn Wilson is 51. Melissa Rivers is 49 today. Questlove is 46.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.


  1. lifelessons · January 20, 2017

    What contrast between your beginning quote and my Yacht Attack post..


  2. monika sharma · January 20, 2017

    http://wp.me/p8g2rs-U I hope you like my post


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