This day in history

Friday, May 17, is the 137th day of 2013. There are 228 days left in the year.

Today’s birthdays: Singer Taj Mahal is 71. Singer-songwriter Jesse Winchester is 69. Rock musician Bill Bruford is 64. Singer-musician George Johnson (The Brothers Johnson) is 60. TV personality Kathleen Sullivan is 60. Actor Bill Paxton is 58. Boxing Hall of Famer Sugar Ray Leonard is 57. Actor-comedian Bob Saget is 57. Sports announcer Jim Nantz is 54. Singer Enya is 52. Talk show host-actor Craig Ferguson is 51. Rock singer-musician Page McConnell is 50. Singer-musician Trent Reznor (Nine Inch Nails) is 48. Actress Paige Turco is 48. Actor Hill Harper is 47. Singer Jordan Knight is 43. Rock singer Andrea Corr (The Corrs) is 39. Actress Kat Foster is 35. Dancer-choreographer Derek Hough is 28. Actress Nikki Reed is 25.

In 1510, painter Sandro Botticelli died in Florence; he was probably in his mid 60s.


In 1792, the New York Stock Exchange had its origins as a group of brokers met under a tree on Wall Street.

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In 1849, fire erupted in St. Louis, resulting in the loss of three lives, more than 400 buildings, and some two dozen steamships.

In 1912, the Socialist Party of America nominated Eugene V. Debs for president at its convention in Indianapolis.

In 1938, Congress passed the Second Vinson Act, providing for a strengthened US Navy.

In 1946, President Truman seized control of the nation’s railroads, delaying — but not preventing — a threatened strike by engineers and trainmen.


In 1954, the US Supreme Court, in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, unanimously struck down racially segregated public schools.

In 1961, Cuban leader Fidel Castro offered to release prisoners captured in the Bay of Pigs invasion in exchange for 500 bulldozers. (The prisoners were eventually freed in exchange for medical supplies.)

In 1971, ‘‘Godspell,’’ a contemporary musical inspired by the Gospel According to St. Matthew, opened off-Broadway at the Cherry Lane Theatre.

In 1973, a special committee convened by the US Senate began its televised hearings into the Watergate scandal.

In 1980, rioting that claimed 18 lives erupted in Miami’s Liberty City after an all-white jury in Tampa acquitted four former Miami police officers of fatally beating black insurance executive Arthur McDuffie.


In 1987, 37 American sailors were killed when an Iraqi warplane attacked the US Navy frigate Stark in the Persian Gulf. (Iraq apologized for the attack, calling it a mistake, and paid more than $27 million in compensation.)

In 2003, a top Vatican official, Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, acknowledged what many observers had long suspected — that Pope John Paul II was suffering from Parkinson’s disease. A German tour bus overturned on a highway in France, killing 28 people. A Palestinian suicide bomber blew himself up in the West Bank city of Hebron, killing an Israeli man and his pregnant wife. More than 260 people died in Sri Lanka’s worst flooding in five decades.

In 2008, US Senator Edward M. Kennedy was flown to a Boston hospital after suffering a seizure at his home on Cape Cod (he was later diagnosed with a cancerous brain tumor).

In 2012, Donna Summer, 63, the ‘‘Queen of Disco,’’ died in Naples, Fla.