John’s Believe It Or Not… April 4th

John Fioravanti standing at the front of his classroom.

It’s Tantalising Tuesday! Did you know…

* 1949 – Lester B. Pearson signs the North Atlantic Treaty; Canada a founding member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). (The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), created in 1949, was Canada’s first peacetime military alliance, placing the nation in a defensive security arrangement with the United States, Britain and the nations of western Europe. During the Cold War, NATO forces provided a frontline deterrence against the Soviet Union and its satellite states. More recently the organisation has asserted its members’ strategic interests in the global campaign against Islamic terrorism.)

Map showing original NATO members in 1949

* 1968 Dr King is assassinated. (Just after 6 p.m. on April 4, 1968, Martin Luther King Jr. is fatally shot while standing on the balcony outside his second-story room at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. The civil rights leader was in Memphis to support a sanitation workers’ strike and was on his way to dinner when a bullet struck him in the jaw and severed his spinal cord. King was pronounced dead after his arrival at a Memphis hospital. He was 39 years old. In the months before his assassination, Martin Luther King became increasingly concerned with the problem of economic inequality in America. He organised a Poor People’s Campaign to focus on the issue, including an interracial poor people’s march on Washington, and in March 1968 travelled to Memphis in support of poorly treated African-American sanitation workers. On March 28, a workers’ protest march led by King ended in violence and the death of an African-American teenager. King left the city but vowed to return in early April to lead another demonstration. On April 3, back in Memphis, King gave his last sermon, saying, “We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter with me now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop…And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over, and I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight that we, as a people, will get to the promised land.”)

King waving at a crowd - the caption reads "I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear."

* 1975 Microsoft founded. (On this day in 1975, at a time when most Americans use typewriters, childhood friends Bill Gates and Paul Allen found Microsoft, a company that makes computer software. Originally based in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Microsoft relocated to Washington State in 1979 and eventually grew into a major multinational technology corporation. In 1987, the year after Microsoft went public, 31-year-old Gates became the world’s youngest billionaire. Gates and Allen started Microsoft—originally called Micro-Soft, for microprocessors and software—in order to produce software for the Altair 8800, an early personal computer. Allen quit his job as a programmer in Boston and Gates left Harvard University, where he was a student, to focus on their new company, which was based in Albuquerque because the city was home to electronics firm MITS, maker of the Altair 8800. By the end of 1978, Microsoft’s sales topped more than $1 million and in 1979 the business moved its headquarters to Bellevue, Washington, a suburb of Seattle, where Gates and Allen grew up. The company went on to license its MS-DOS operating system to IBM for its first personal computer, which debuted in 1981. Afterwards, other computer companies started licensing MS-DOS, which had no graphical interface and required users to type in commands in order to open a program. In 1983, Allen departed Microsoft after being diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma; he was successfully treated for the disease and went on to pursue a variety of other business ventures.)

Photo of Paul Allen and Bill Gates
Paul Allen (L) and Bill Gates (R)

* 1960 Ben-Hur wins 11 Academy Awards. (Clocking in at three hours and 32 minutes, William Wyler’s Technicolor epic Ben-Hur is the behemoth entry at the 32nd annual Academy Awards ceremony, held on this day in 1960, at the RKO Pantages Theatre in Hollywood. Setting an Oscar record, the film swept 11 of the 12 categories in which it was nominated, including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actor (Charlton Heston). Wyler’s 1959 film was the latest dramatic adaptation of the mega-bestselling novel Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ, published in 1880 by Lew Wallace. Wallace, a former general in the American Civil War, wrote his most successful novel after experiencing a new awakening of his Christian faith. The book told the story of a young Jewish aristocrat, Judah Ben Hur, who chafes against the repressive Roman rule in Judea, loses his fortune and his family, but eventually triumphs over obstacles (thanks partially to the intervention of Jesus Christ).

Still shot from the movie of the chariot race.
Charlton Heston (Ben Hur) is driving the team of white horses (what else?) on the right.

* 1975 Operation Baby Lift aircraft crashes. (A major U.S. airlift of South Vietnamese orphans begins with disaster when an Air Force cargo jet crashes shortly after departing from Tan Son Nhut airbase in Saigon. More than 138 passengers, mostly children, were killed. Operation Baby Lift was designed to bring 2,000 South Vietnamese orphans to the United States for adoption by American parents. Baby Lift lasted for 10 days and was carried out during the final, desperate phase of the war, as North Vietnamese forces closed in on Saigon. Although this first flight ended in tragedy, all subsequent flights were completed safely, and Baby Lift aircraft brought orphans across the Pacific until the mission’s conclusion on April 14, only 16 days before the fall of Saigon and the end of the war.)

Photo of the babies strapped into the plane seats before takeoff.
Vietnamese and Amerasian babies aboard an Operation Babylift plane to Oakland, April 1975.

Look who was born on this date!

Bust of Caracalla.* Caracalla in 188. ([Marcus Aurelius Severus Antoninus Augustus]  Roman Emperor of Punic and Syrian descent from 198 to 217. He is remembered as one of the most notorious and unpleasant of emperors because of the massacres and persecutions he authorised and instigated throughout the Empire. He is also one of the emperors who commissioned a large public bath-house in Rome, which remains a major tourist attraction today.)

Photo of Muddy Waters* Muddy Waters [McKinley Morganfield] in 1913. (American Blues Musician: Muddy Waters was one of the most influential blues musicians of all time. His impact extends to blues, rhythm and blues, rock ‘n’ roll, hard rock, folk, jazz, and country. The Rolling Stones named themselves after his 1950 hit song “Rollin’ Stone”. Water’s use of amplified electric guitar helped define his legendary style, which transformed the rustic blues of the Mississippi into an electrified urban sound and made him the pioneer and father of modern Chicago blues. His hits include “I Just Want to Make Love to You”, “Louisiana Blues”, “Hoochie Coochie Man”, and “I’m Ready”. Waters has received six Grammy Awards, including a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1992, and is a member of the “Rock and Roll Hall of Fame”.)

Head shot of Maya Angelou* Maya Angelou in 1928. (American Author, Poet and Actress:  Revered globally for her poetry and her commitment to civil rights Maya Angelou was best known for her series of seven autobiographies, which focused on her childhood. The first, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” (1969), tells of her life up to the age of 17 and brought her international recognition. Her books were centred around themes such as racism, identity, family and travel. As a respected spokesperson for black people and women, her works have been considered a defence of Black culture. She was also active in the Civil Rights movement and worked with Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X. King was assassinated on her birthday and it was many years before she could bring herself to celebrate her birthday.)


Author: John Fioravanti

I'm a retired History teacher (35 years), husband, father of three, grandfather of three. My wife, Anne, and I became business partners in December, 2013, and launched our own publishing company, Fiora Books (, to publish my books. We have been married since 1973 and hope our joint business venture will be as successful as our marriage.

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