By The Associated Press
Today in History
Today is Friday, Dec. 20, the 354th day of 2019. There are 11 days left in the year.
Today’s Highlight in History:
On Dec. 20, 1803, the Louisiana Purchase was completed as ownership of the territory was formally transferred from France to the United States.
On this date:
In 1860, South Carolina became the first state to secede from the Union as all 169 delegates to a special convention in Charleston voted in favor of separation.
In 1924, Adolf Hitler was released from prison after serving nine months for his role in the Beer Hall Putsch.
In 1961, playwright-director Moss Hart, 57, died in Palm Springs, Calif.
In 1963, the Berlin Wall was opened for the first time to West Berliners, who were allowed one-day visits to relatives in the Eastern sector for the holidays.
In 1968, author John Steinbeck died in New York at age 66.
In 1978, former White House chief of staff H.R. Haldeman was released from prison after serving 18 months for his role in the Watergate cover-up.
In 1987, more than 4,300 people were killed when the Dona Paz, a Philippine passenger ship, collided with the tanker Vector off Mindoro island.
In 1989, the United States launched Operation Just Cause, sending troops into Panama to topple the government of Gen. Manuel Noriega.
In 1995, an American Airlines Boeing 757 en route to Cali, Colombia, slammed into a mountain, killing all but four of the 163 people aboard. In Bosnia-Herzegovina, NATO began its peacekeeping mission, taking over from the United Nations.
In 2002, Trent Lott resigned as Senate Republican leader two weeks after igniting a political firestorm with racially charged remarks. The nation’s ten biggest brokerages agreed to pay $1.44 billion and fundamentally change the way they did business to settle allegations they’d misled investors by hyping certain companies’ stocks.
In 2005, a federal judge ruled that “intelligent design” could not be mentioned in biology classes in a Pennsylvania public school district, delivering a stinging attack on the Dover Area School Board.
Ten years ago: Relatives reported the death of Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, 87, the spiritual father of Iran’s reform movement. Actress Brittany Murphy, who’d starred in “Clueless” and “8 Mile,” died at age 32. Character actor Arnold Stang died in Newton, Massachusetts, at age 91.
Five years ago: A gunman who’d announced online that he was planning to shoot two “pigs” in retaliation for the police chokehold death of Eric Garner ambushed two New York City officers in a patrol car; Ismaaiyl Brinsley shot Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu to death before running to a subway station and killing himself.
One year ago: President Donald Trump announced that Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, who had differed with Trump on Syria, Afghanistan and ties to NATO, would retire at the end of February; in a resignation letter, Mattis said Trump deserved a defense chief ìwhose views are better aligned with yours.î