January 21 in History

When Marie Smith Jones died on this date in 2008, the living history of a people and a language died, too. She was 89 and she was the last of the Eyak people, an indigenous group that lived along the Copper River in south-central Alaska.

Smith Jones (above) was also the last native speaker of Eyak, which was once the dominant language from Alaska down along the western coast of Canada, and the death of a language brought global attention to the fact that languages are disappearing at an increasingly rapid rate. Since the start of the century, about one language per year goes extinct with the death of its final native speaker. (There are about 7000 living languages spoken around the world right now, and ethnologists estimate that more than 90% will be extinct by 2050.)

Marie Smith Jones explains some greetings:

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Comedy in Music, a one-man comedy show that starred Victor Borge, ended its record-setting Broadway run on this date in 1956. Borge performed his musical monologue 849 times in two and a half years, a record which still stands. (He would probably make a joke here about the use of that phrase, “still stands.”)

Here he is from that era, in performance at the Eisenhower White House:

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In one of his first acts as U.S. President, Jimmy Carter issued a pardon on this date 40 years ago for Vietnam War-era draft evaders who committed their act of evasion between August 4, 1964 and March 28, 1973. It fulfilled a campaign promise, and it also remained a source of controversy over the remaining four years of his presidency.

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Vladimir Lenin died on this date in 1924. George Orwell died on this date in 1950. Jackie Wilson died on this date in 1984. “Colonel Tom” Parker died 20 years ago today. Peggy Lee died 15 years ago today.

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Benny Hill was born on this date in 1924. Steve Reeves was born in 1926 on this date. Wolfman Jack was born on this date in 1938. Richie Havens was born on this date in 1941. Edwin Starr was born 75 years ago today.

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Jack Nicklaus is 77 today. Plácido Domingo is 76 today. “Granada”:

Mac Davis is 75 today. Jill Eikenberry is 70 today. Billy Ocean is 67. Eric Holder is 66. Louis Menand is 65. Paul G. Allen is 64. Jeff Koons is 62. Robby Benson is 61 today. Geena Davis is 61 today. Hakeem Olajuwon is 54. Cat Power is 45 today. Emma Bunton is 41.

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


  1. loisajay · January 21, 2017

    I could watch Victor Borge all day; he made piano playing look like so much fun.

    Liked by 1 person

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