1587: After more than 18 years in custody, Mary, Queen of Scots, is executed on suspicion of having been involved in the Babington Plot to murder her cousin, Queen Elizabeth I.
1693: The College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Va., is granted a charter by King William III and Queen Mary II. The college is one of the country's nine Colonial Colleges founded before the American Revolution and is the second-oldest institution of higher education in the United States after Harvard University.
1820: William Tecumseh Sherman, the American Civil War Union general known for the "scorched earth" policies he implemented in conducting total war against the Confederate States, is born in Lancaster, Ohio.
1828: Author Jules Verne, a pioneer of the science fiction genre best known for his novels "Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea," "Journey to the Center of the Earth" and "Around the World in Eighty Days," is born in Nantes, France.
1837: Richard Mentor Johnson becomes the first United States vice president chosen by the U.S. Senate under the provisions of the 12th Amendment. Johnson had been the Democratic nominee for vice president on a ticket with Martin Van Buren, but while Van Buren secured enough electoral votes to win, Johnson fell short. Virginia's delegation to the Electoral College went against the state's popular vote and refused to endorse Johnson, but he was elected to the office by the Democrat-dominated Senate, which is empowered by the 12th Amendment to choose the vice president from the top two vote-getters if no candidate receives a majority of electoral votes.
1865: Delaware voters reject the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and vote to continue the practice of slavery. The state would finally ratify the amendment on Feb. 12, 1901.
1894: Film director King Vidor, who was nominated five times for a Best Director Oscar during a career that included films such as "Hallelujah!", "The Citadel," "The Champ" and "War and Peace," is born in Galveston, Texas. He died from a heart ailment at age 88 on Nov. 1, 1982.
1896: The Western Conference is formed by representatives of Midwestern universities. The group, which originally included Purdue University, the University of Michigan, the University of Wisconsin, the University of Minnesota, the University of Illinois, the University of Chicago, and Northwestern University, would eventually change its name to the Big 10 Conference.
1910: The Boy Scouts of America is incorporated by William D. Boyce.
1915: D.W. Griffith's film "The Birth of a Nation" premieres in Los Angeles. The silent movie, based on the novel and play "The Clansman," was a commercial success, but was highly controversial due to its portrayal of black men (played by white actors in blackface) as unintelligent and sexually aggressive toward white women, and the portrayal of the Ku Klux Klan as a heroic force. When the film was shown, riots broke out in Boston, Philadelphia and other major cities. In response, several other cities refused to allow the film to open. The film has also been credited as groundbreaking for its innovative application of the medium of film, including pioneering such camera techniques as the use of panoramic long shots, the iris effects, still-shots, night photography and panning camera shots.
1921: Actress Lana Turner, best known for movies such as "Ziegfeld Girl," "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde," "The Postman Always Rings Twice," "The Bad and the Beautiful" and "Peyton Place," is born Julia Jean Turner in Wallace, Idaho. Turner was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress for "Peyton Place" in 1958. She died of throat cancer at age 74 on June 29, 1995.
1924: Convicted murderer Gee Jon becomes the first person executed in the United States by gas chamber, when he is put to death in Nevada. Gee, a member of the Hip Sing Tong criminal society from San Francisco, Calif., was sentenced to death for the murder of an elderly member from another gang in Nevada. An unsuccessful attempt to pump poison gas directly into his cell at Nevada State Prison led to a makeshift gas chamber being set up at the butcher shop of the prison.
1925: Actor Jack Lemmon, best known for roles in movies such as "Some Like it Hot," "The Apartment," "Mister Roberts," "The Odd Couple," "Save the Tiger," "The China Syndrome," "Missing," "Glengarry Glen Ross" and "Grumpy Old Men," is born in Newton, Mass. Lemmon won Oscars for Best Actor for "Save the Tiger" and Best Supporting Actor for "Mister Roberts." He was also nominated for six more Oscars during his career. He died of colon cancer and metastatic cancer of the bladder at age 76 on June 27, 2001.
1931: Actor James Dean, best known for his movie roles in "Rebel Without a Cause," "East of Eden" and "Giant," is born in Marion, Ind. Dean's short-lived career ended with his death in a car crash on Sept. 30, 1955. While his acting career only lasted a little more than a year, his three films and tragic death made him an American legend. He was the first actor to receive a posthumous Academy Award nomination for Best Actor, for "East of Eden," and remains the only actor to have had two posthumous acting nominations, earning a second for "Giant."
1932: Composer and conductor John Williams, who has composed some of the most recognizable film scores in cinematic history, is born on Long Island, N.Y. Some of the films Williams has scored include the "Star Wars" films, "Jaws," "Superman," the "Indiana Jones" movies, "E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial," "Schindler's List" and "Saving Private Ryan." He's won five Academy Awards, four Golden Globe Awards, seven British Academy Film Awards, and 21 Grammy Awards. With 49 Academy Award nominations, he is the second most nominated person, after Walt Disney.
1936: Charles Curtis, the first Native American U.S. senator and vice president, dies of a heart attack at the age of 76 in Washington, D.C. Curtis, who was enrolled in the Kaw tribe and spent his childhood living with his mother and her family on the Kaw reservation near Council Grove, Kan., joined the Senate in 1907 and became the 31st vice president of the United States in 1929 under President Herbert Hoover.
1936: The first National Football League draft is held at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Philadelphia. Teams chose from a pool of 90 players whose names were written on a blackboard in the meeting room, with University of Chicago halfback and first Heisman Trophy winner Jay Berwanger the first to be selected. Berwanger was drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles, but was traded to the Chicago Bears. Berwanger never signed with the Bears and never played in the NFL. His decision to not play in the NFL was not unusual, as only 24 of the 81 players selected chose to play in the NFL that year.
1940: Broadcast journalist Ted Koppel, best known as the anchor for "Nightline" from the program's inception in 1980 until his retirement in late 2005, is born Edward James Martin Koppel in Nelson, Lancashire, England.
1941: Actor Nick Nolte, best known for movies such as "North Dallas Forty," "48 Hrs.," "The Prince of Tides," "Lorenzo's Oil," "Affliction," "The Thin Red Line" and "Warrior," is born in Omaha, Neb. Nolte has been nominated for three Academy Awards, twice for Best Actor for "The Prince of Tides" and "Affliction" and once for Best Supporting Actor for "Warrior."
1950: The Stasi, the secret police of East Germany, is established. It has been described as one of the most effective and repressive intelligence and secret police agencies in the world.
1953: Actress Mary Steenburgen, best known for roles in movies such as "Parenthood," "Back to the Future Part III," "Elf" and "Step Brothers," is born in Newport, Ark. She won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in 1981 for the film "Melvin and Howard."
1955: Author and lawyer John Grisham, the writer of such best selling novels as "The Firm," "The Chamber," "The Client," "The Pelican Brief," "The Runaway Jury" and "A Time to Kill," is born in Jonesboro, Ark.
1956: Hall of Fame baseball manager Cornelius McGillicuddy Sr., better known as Connie Mack, dies at the age of 93 in Philadelphia, Pa. Mack retired as manager of the Philadelphia Athletics after 50 years in 1950 at age 87. Mack, who was also at least part-owner of the team from 1901 to 1954, was the first manager to win the World Series three times and set records for wins (3,731), losses (3,948), and games managed (7,755).
1956: Singer-songwriter Buddy Holley signs a recording contract with Decca Records, one which mistakenly drops the "e" from his last name. He thereafter adopted the misspelled name for his professional career.
1961: Rock singer Vince Neil, best known as the lead vocalist for the heavy metal band Mötley Crüe, is born in Hollywood, Calif.
1963: Following the Cuban Missile Crisis, President John F. Kennedy makes travel, financial and commercial transactions by United States citizens to Cuba illegal.
1965: The Supremes release the song "Stop! In the Name of Love." The song would hold the No. 1 position on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 singles chart from March 21 through April 3 and reached the No. 2 position on Billboard's R&B singles chart.
1968: Nine South Carolina Highway Patrol officers in Orangeburg, S.C., fire into a crowd of protesters demonstrating against segregation at a whites-only bowling alley near the campus of South Carolina State College, a historically black college, killing three men and wounding another 28. The federal government brought charges against the state patrolmen in the first federal trial of police officers for using excessive force at a campus protest. All nine defendants were acquitted.
1968: The sci-fi movie "Planet of the Apes," starring Charlton Heston, Roddy McDowall, Maurice Evans, Kim Hunter and Linda Harrison, premieres in New York City. The movie, which tells the story of an astronaut crew who crash-land on a strange planet in the distant future and find it run by apes who have adapted human-like intelligence and speech, was a commercial success. It earned more than $32 million worldwide at the box office and spawned a film franchise, including four sequels, as well as a short-lived television show, animated series, comic books, various merchandising, and eventually a remake in 2001 and a reboot in 2011.
1968: Actor Gary Coleman, best known for his childhood role as Arnold Jackson in the TV sitcom "Diff'rent Strokes," is born in Zion, Ill. He died at the age of 42 on May 28, 2010, two days after falling down the stairs at his home and hitting his head, possibly after suffering a seizure, and suffering an epidural hematoma. Coleman had many health issues over his life, including congenital autoimmune kidney disease, heart surgery and two previous seizures.
1971: Backed by American air and artillery support, South Vietnamese troops invade Laos during the Vietnam War aiming to disrupt the Ho Chi Minh Trail, used by North Vietnam as a supply and troop route. U.S. ground forces were prohibited by law from entering Laotian territory. After meeting resistance, the South Vietnamese forces retreated in a confused rout, dealing a blow to the idea that they could defend their nation as the U.S. continued to withdraw from the war.
1971: The NASDAQ stock market index begins trading as the world's first electronic stock market.
1974: After 84 days in space, the crew of Skylab 4, the last crew to visit the American space station Skylab, returns to Earth. The station would burn up upon re-entry of the Earth's atmosphere in 1979.
1974: The sitcom "Good Times," focusing on a black family living in a poor housing project in inner-city Chicago, debuts. The show, a spin-off of "Maude," which is itself a spin-off of "All in the Family" along with "The Jeffersons," would run for six seasons before ending on Aug. 1, 1979. It broke new ground, becoming the first television show to featured working class black characters living in such impoverished conditions. It also made a star out of Jimmie Walker, whose James "J.J." Evans Jr. character had the catchphrase "Dyno-MITE!," and gave a young Janet Jackson her first taste of acting in its final two seasons.
1974: Actor Seth Green, best known for his role on the TV series "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and for roles in movies such as "The Italian Job," "Can't Hardly Wait" and all three "Austin Powers" movies, is born in West Philadelphia, Pa. Green is also the creator, executive producer and frequent voice actor on the stop-motion animated show "Robot Chicken," and is also well known for his role voicing the character Chris Griffin on the animated series "Family Guy."
1976: Martin Scorsese's psychological thriller film "Taxi Driver," starring Robert De Niro as Travis Bickle, a mentally unstable New York taxi driver prone to outbursts of violence, premieres in theaters. The movie, which also features Jodie Foster, Cybill Shepherd and Harvey Keitel, would end up earning four Academy Award nominations: Best Picture, Best Actor for De Niro, Best Supporting Actress for Foster, and Best Original Score. Filmed on a budget of $1.3 million, the movie earned $28 million in the United States, making it the 17th-highest-grossing film of 1976. It is regularly cited by critics and audiences alike as one of the greatest films of all time and De Niro's character's catchphrase, "You talkin' to me?," quickly became a pop culture icon.
1985: "The Dukes of Hazzard" ends its six and a half year run on television. The show followed the adventures of cousins Bo and Luke Duke as they raced around in their customized 1969 Dodge Charger, christened The General Lee, while evading crooked county commissioner Boss Hogg and his inept county sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane. The show was consistently among the top-rated television series for its first four seasons, but couldn't recover from a ratings slide after stars Tom Wopat and John Schneider walked before the fifth season over a contract dispute and were replaced by lookalike replacements Coy and Vance Duke, played by Byron Cherry and Christopher Mayer. Wopat and Schneider returned toward the end of the season, but the damage was done.
1986: Five-foot-seven-inch point guard Spud Webb of the Atlanta Hawks wins the NBA Slam Dunk Contest, becoming the shortest player ever to win the competition.
1990: Rock 'n' roll singer-songwriter Del Shannon, best known for his 1961 No. 1 hit song "Runaway" and other songs such as "Hats Off to Larry," "So Long, Baby" and "Little Town Flirt," commits suicide with a .22-caliber rifle in his home in Santa Clarita, Calif., at the age of 55. Shannon, whose real name was Charles Weedon Westover, was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1999.
1992: The song "I'm Too Sexy" by Right Said Fred peaks at No. 1 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart. It would stay on top of the chart for three weeks.
1998: The first women's ice hockey game in Olympic history takes place at Aqua Wing Arena in Nagano, Japan, as Finland beats Sweden 6-0. On Feb. 17, the United States would beat Canada 3-1 for the first Olympic gold medal in the sport.
2000: Derrick Thomas, an 11-year defensive end/linebacker for the Kansas City Chiefs, dies from a massive blood clot that developed in his paralyzed lower extremities and traveled to his lungs. His paralysis was the result of severe injuries sustained in a car accident weeks earlier. Thomas, part of the Pro Football Hall of Fame's class of 2009, was a premier football player throughout the 1990s and is considered one of the best pass rushers of all-time.
2007: Actress and Playboy Playmate of the Year Anna Nicole Smith dies at age 39 in a Hollywood, Fla., hotel room as a result of an overdose of prescription drugs.
2009: In the early morning hours on the day of the Grammy Awards, R&B singer Chris Brown is arrested and held on suspicion of making criminal threats on his girlfriend, fellow singer Rihanna, who suffered visible injuries and identified him as her attacker. The incident led Rihanna to postpone concerts scheduled in Indonesia and in Malaysia. Brown would plead guilty to felony assault in June and be sentenced to five years probation and six months of community service. The two singers are seen here in December 2008.