Good News in History, January 31

101 years ago today, Arizona Congressman Stewart Udall was born. He became Secretary of the Interior from 1961–1969 and saved millions of acres of wilderness and waterways.

Under his leadership, the US government expanded federal public lands, adding four national parks, six national monuments, eight national seashores and lakeshores, nine recreation areas, 20 historic sites, and 56 national wildlife refuges—including Canyonlands National Park in Utah, North Cascades National Park in Washington, Redwood National Park in California, the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, and the Appalachian Scenic Trail stretching from Georgia to Maine. (1920-2010)

Along with his brother, Rep. “Mo” Udall (D–AZ), Stewart played a key role in the enactment of many environmental laws such as the Clear Air, Water Quality, and Clean Water Restoration Acts and Amendments, the Wilderness Act of 1964, the Endangered Species Preservation Act of 1966, the Land and Water Conservation Fund Act of 1965, the Solid Waste Disposal Act of 1965, the National Trail System Act, and Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.

MORE Good News on This Day:

  • Composer Franz Schubert was born in Vienna, Austria; perhaps best known for his haunting Ellens dritter Gesang, the beloved melody used today as a setting for the traditional Catholic prayer Ave Maria (1797)
  • The US Congress passed the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, abolishing slavery and submits it to the states for ratification by two-thirds of them (1865)
  • 3M began marketing Scotch Tape (1930)
  • U.S. President Bill Clinton authorized a $20 billion loan to Mexico to stabilize the country’s economy—money that was paid back in full in 1997, three years earlier than required (1995)
  • Myanmar opened its first parliament in more than two decades (2011)

And, Happy 40th Birthday to singer, actor and record producer Justin Timberlake. Born to a gospel choir director in 1981 in Tennessee, Timberlake’s pop albums and other talents have won him more than a dozen Grammy and Emmy awards—including, for his comedy sketches while hosting Saturday Night Live. He later gained notoriety on the big screen when he co-starred in The Social Network. (1981)

Justin Timberlake 2014 - by freetopone
By freetopone, CC license, 2014

100 years ago today, the 3-time Tony Award-winning musical-comedy performer, Carol Channing was born.

Carol Channing publicity shot

She was best known for her unique girlish voice and comedic timing used to great effect when she starred in Hello, Dolly! and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. An ovarian cancer survivor, she wrote a 2002 autobiography, Just Lucky I Guess, and she was featured in a 2012 documentary, entitled Larger Than Life. In 2003, she married her junior high-school sweetheart, who reunited with her after she mentioned him fondly in her memoir. She died on January 15, 2019, in Rancho Mirage, California. (1921–2019)

81 years ago today, the first Social Security check was distributed in the United States.

The retirement payment was issued to 65-year-old Ida May Fuller in Ludlow, Vermont. The newly retired legal secretary started collecting benefits of $22.54 per month (a total of $22,888)—until she died at 100 years old. The new Social Security insurance program promised to provide monthly income to seniors during retirement, disability, or upon the death of spouse, and has been doing that for 80 years now. (1940)

And, 102 years ago, baseball hero Jackie Robinson was born in Cairo, Georgia. He made history in 1947 as the first black baseball player to appear in a Major League game. Despite experiencing terrible racism from players and fans around him, Jackie stayed mostly graceful and earned peoples’ admiration–both on and off the field. Athletically, he performed magnificently and won the Rookie of the Year award. Two years later, he won the MVP award, with a .342 batting average. Following a storied career, his Dodger jersey number—42—was retired in tribute leaguewide by every club.

His remarkable life story has been told in books and pictures—especially notable is the Hollywood film 42, starring Chadwick Boseman. Documentary filmmaker Ken Burns produced a 4-hour series for PBS. WATCH a video… (1919)

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