Today In History: May 31, The Johnstown Flood Kills More Than 2000

Today in History

Today is Friday, May 31, the 152nd day of 2024. There are 214 days left in the year.

Today’s Highlight in History:

On May 31, 1889, some 2,200 people in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, perished when the South Fork Dam collapsed, sending 20 million tons of water rushing through the town.

On this date:

In 1790, President George Washington signed into law the first U.S. copyright act.

In 1859, the Big Ben clock tower in London went into operation, chiming for the first time.

In 1921, a race riot erupted in Tulsa, Oklahoma, as white mobs began looting and leveling the affluent Black district of Greenwood over reports a Black man had assaulted a white woman in an elevator; hundreds are believed to have died.

In 1949, former State Department official and accused spy Alger Hiss went on trial in New York, charged with perjury (the jury deadlocked, but Hiss was convicted in a second trial).

In 1962, former Nazi official Adolf Eichmann was hanged in Israel a few minutes before midnight for his role in the Holocaust.

In 1970, a magnitude 7.9 earthquake in Peru claimed an estimated 67,000 lives.

In 1977, the Trans-Alaska oil pipeline, three years in the making despite objections from environmentalists and Alaska Natives, was completed.

In 1989, House Speaker Jim Wright, dogged by questions about his ethics, announced he would resign.

In 2009, Millvina Dean, the last survivor of the 1912 sinking of the RMS Titanic, died in Southampton, England at 97.

In 2013, a tornado in the Oklahoma City metro area claimed eight lives, including those of storm chasers Tim Samaras, his son, Paul, and Carl Young.

In 2014, Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, the only American soldier held prisoner in Afghanistan, was freed by the Taliban in exchange for five Afghan detainees from the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. (Bergdahl, who’d gone missing in June 2009, later pleaded guilty to endangering his comrades by walking away from his post in Afghanistan; his sentence included a dishonorable discharge, a reduction in rank and a fine, but no prison time.)

In 2018, President Donald Trump pardoned conservative commentator Dinesh D’Souza, who had pleaded guilty to campaign finance fraud; Trump said D’Souza had been “treated very unfairly by our government.”

In 2019, a longtime city employee opened fire in a municipal building in Virginia Beach, Virginia, killing 12 people on three floors before police shot and killed him; officials said DeWayne Craddock had resigned by email hours before the shooting.

In 2020, tens of thousands of people protesting in the wake of the killing of George Floyd again took to the streets across America, with peaceful demonstrations against police killings overshadowed by unrest; officials deployed thousands of National Guard soldiers and enacted strict curfews in major cities.

In 2021, China’s ruling Communist Party announced that all couples would be allowed to have three children instead of two.

In 2023, jurors found “That ’70s Show” star Danny Masterson guilty of two counts of rape in a Los Angeles court.

Today’s Birthdays: Actor-director Clint Eastwood is 94. Singer Peter Yarrow is 86. Humanitarian and author Terry Waite is 85. Singer-musician Augie Meyers is 84. Actor Sharon Gless is 81. Football Hall of Famer Joe Namath is 81. Broadcast journalist/commentator Bernard Goldberg is 79. Actor Tom Berenger is 74. Actor Gregory Harrison is 74. Actor Kyle Secor is 67. Actor Roma Maffia (ma-FEE’-uh) is 66. Actor/comedian Chris Elliott is 64. Actor Lea Thompson is 63. Singer Corey Hart is 62. Actor Hugh Dillon is 61. Rapper Darryl “DMC” McDaniels is 60. Actor Brooke Shields is 59. TV host Phil Keoghan is 57. Jazz musician Christian McBride is 52. Actor Archie Panjabi is 52. Actor Merle Dandridge (TV: “Greenleaf”) is 49. Actor Colin Farrell is 48. Rock musician Scott Klopfenstein (Reel Big Fish) is 47. Actor Eric Christian Olsen is 47. Rock musician Andy Hurley (Fall Out Boy) is 44. Country singer Casey James (TV: “American Idol”) is 42. Actor Jonathan Tucker is 42. Rapper Waka Flocka Flame is 38. Pop singer Normani Hamilton (Fifth Harmony) is 28.