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April 26, 2013

Today in History for Friday, April 26, 2013

-- — Highlight in History

On April 26, 1865, John Wilkes Booth, the assassin of President Abraham Lincoln, was surrounded by federal troops near Port Royal, Va., and killed. (Just before dying, Booth looked at his hands and gasped, “Useless, useless.”)

On this date

In 1607, English colonists went ashore at present-day Cape Henry, Va., on an expedition to establish the first permanent English settlement in the Western Hemisphere.

In 1913, Mary Phagan, a 13-year-old worker at a Georgia pencil factory, was strangled; Leo Frank, the factory superintendent, was convicted of her murder and sentenced to death. (Frank’s death sentence was commuted, but he was lynched by an anti-Semitic mob in 1915.)

In 1933, Nazi Germany’s infamous secret police, the Gestapo, was created.

In 1937, German and Italian warplanes raided the Basque town of Guernica during the Spanish Civil War; estimates of the number of people killed vary from the hundreds to the thousands.

In 1968, the United States exploded beneath the Nevada desert a 1.3 megaton nuclear device called “Boxcar.”

In 1986, a major nuclear accident occurred at the Chernobyl plant in Ukraine (then part of the Soviet Union).

In 1993, Conan O’Brien was named to succeed David Letterman as host of NBC’s “Late Night” program.

Ten years ago

A Soyuz rocket carrying American astronaut Edward Lu and Russian cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko blasted off for the international space station. Actor Charlton Heston, diagnosed with symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, made his last appearance as president of the National Rifle Association during an NRA convention in Orlando, Fla., where he briefly thanked the membership.

Five years ago

Police in Austria arrested Josef Fritzl, freeing his daughter Elisabeth and her six surviving children, whom he had fathered while holding her captive in a cellar for 24 years. (Fritzl was later sentenced to life in a psychiatric ward.) Yossi Harel, the ship commander whose attempt to bring Holocaust survivors to Palestine aboard the Exodus 1947 built support for Israel’s founding, died in Tel Aviv at age 90. Avant-garde composer Henry Brant died in Santa Barbara, Calif., at age 94.

One year ago

Former Liberian President Charles Taylor became the first head of state since World War II to be convicted by an international war crimes court as he was found guilty of arming Sierra Leone rebels in exchange for “blood diamonds” mined by slave laborers and smuggled across the border.

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