John’s Believe It Or Not … May 4th

John Fioravanti Stands at the front of his classroom in 2006

It’s Thursday Already! Did you know…

* 1994 Rabin and Arafat sign accord for Palestinian self-rule. (On May 4, 1994, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat reached agreement in Cairo on the first stage of Palestinian self-rule. The agreement was made in accordance with the Oslo Accords, signed in Washington, D.C.on September 13, 1993. This was the first direct, face-to-face agreement between Israel and the Palestinians and it acknowledged Israel’s right to exist. It was also designed as a framework for future relations between the two parties. The Israeli Defense Forces withdrew from Jericho on May 13 and from most of the Gaza Strip on May 18-19, 1994. Palestinian Authority police and officials immediately took control. During the first few days, there was a spate of attacks on Israeli troops and civilians in and near the Strip. Arafat himself arrived in Gaza to a tumultuous, chaotic welcome on July 1. As time went on, timetables stipulated in the deal were not met, Israel’s re-deployments were slowed and new agreements were negotiated. Israeli critics of the deal claimed “Land for Peace” was in reality “Land for Nothing.” The momentum toward peaceful relations between Israel and the Palestinians was seriously jolted by the outbreak of the 2000 Palestinian uprising, known as “Second Intifada.” Further strain was put on the process after Hamas came to power in the 2006 Palestinian elections.)

Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat shake hands with President Clinton looking on.

* 1904 Construction begins by the United States on the Panama Canal. (The canal cuts across the Isthmus of Panama and is a key conduit for international maritime trade. There are locks at each end to lift ships up to Gatun Lake, an artificial lake created to reduce the amount of excavation work required for the canal, 26 meters (85 ft) above sea level, and then lower the ships at the other end. The original locks are 33.5 meters (110 ft) wide. A third, wider lane of locks was constructed between September 2007 and May 2016. The expanded canal began commercial operation on June 26, 2016. The new locks allow transit of larger, Post-Panamax ships, capable of handling more cargo.)

Panama City Canal construction historic photo infrastructure shipping global trade Panama Canal Museum
Panama City Canal construction historic photo – Panama Canal Museum (Circle of Blue)

* 1990 An inhumane execution. (Jesse Tafero is executed in Florida after his electric chair malfunctions three times, causing flames to leap from his head. Tafero’s death sparked a new debate on humane methods of execution. Several states ceased use of the electric chair and adopted lethal injection as their means of capital punishment. As the 20th century came to an end, some states were having difficulty finding experienced executioners while others were unable to find technicians who could repair electric chairs. The move toward lethal injection was also problematic since there were few qualified people who knew how to construct a proper system. If done incorrectly, an injection containing a combination of a paralytic drug and a lethal dose of potassium chloride can paralyze an inmate and result in a painful death. Tafero’s botched execution was far from an anomaly. In Alabama, Horace F. Dunkins’ execution was prolonged 19 long minutes while sitting in a broken electric chair. In July 1998, Florida inmate Allen Lee “Tiny” Davis, who weighed 344 pounds, screamed in pain during his electrocution while blood poured down his shirt. Authorities later claimed that the blood was a result of a bloody nose.)

The electric chair used
Jesse Tafero and the Botched Execution

* 1970 National Guard kills four at Kent State. (In Kent, Ohio, 28 National Guardsmen fire their weapons at a group of antiwar demonstrators on the Kent State University campus, killing four students, wounding eight, and permanently paralyzing another. Two days earlier, the National Guard troops were called to Kent to suppress students rioting in protest of the Vietnam War and the U.S. invasion of Cambodia. The next day, scattered protests were dispersed by tear gas, and on May 4 class resumed at Kent State University. By noon that day, despite a ban on rallies, some 2,000 people had assembled on the campus. National Guard troops arrived and ordered the crowd to disperse, fired tear gas, and advanced against the students with bayonets fixed on their rifles. Some of the protesters, refusing to yield, responded by throwing rocks and verbally taunting the troops. Minutes later, without firing a warning shot, the Guardsmen discharged more than 60 rounds toward a group of demonstrators in a nearby parking lot, killing four and wounding nine. The closest casualty was 20 yards away, and the farthest was almost 250 yards away. After a period of disbelief, shock, and attempts at first aid, angry students gathered on a nearby slope and were again ordered to move by the Guardsmen. Faculty members were able to convince the group to disperse, and further bloodshed was prevented. In 1974, at the end of a criminal investigation into the Kent State incident, a federal court dropped all charges levied against eight Ohio National Guardsmen for their role in the students’ deaths.)

Students dive to the ground as the Guard fires on faculty and students, May 4
Students dive to the ground as the Guard fires on faculty and students, May 4, 1970.

* 1977 David Frost interviews Richard Nixon. (On this day in 1977, British journalist David Frost interviews former President Richard Nixon. In the televised interview, Nixon answered questions regarding the Watergate scandal and his resignation, admitting that he had let the American people down through his role in the 1972 Watergate burglary and cover-up. The ensuing investigation exposed rampant corruption in his administration and led to his resignation in 1974. Oddly, by 1977, despite damning evidence to the contrary, Nixon still did not believe that he had tried to obstruct justice, one of the impeachment charges made against him by Congress in 1974. He told Frost, I didn’t think of it as a cover-up. I didn’t intend a cover-up. Let me say, if I intended the cover-up, believe me, I would have done it. Nixon also admitted that he had not thought that the White House tape recordings regarding the scandal would come out. It was the release of White House tape recordings subpoenaed by the Watergate investigation committee in 1973 that implicated Nixon in the cover-up and prompted him to resign in the face of impeachment. Nixon also told Frost that the day he resigned was the first time I cried since Eisenhower died. Richard Nixon died in 1994. In 2002, Frost shared his memories of his Nixon interview on Larry King Live. Frost recalled that he and Nixon met at the former president’s office in San Clemente, California, and engaged in small talk before doing the interview. Frost remembered bringing up the name of Nixon’s 1970s rival, Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev, to which Nixon replied oh, I wouldn’t want to be a Russian leader. They never know when they’re being taped.” Frost also characterized the former president as impersonal and lonely. He so wanted to be great said Frost, but he was a sad man at the end.)

Former US President Richard M. Nixon, right, with broadcaster David Frost
Former US President Richard M. Nixon, right, with broadcaster David Frost (The Daily Beast)

Acknowledged Sources:

* On This Day – History, Film, Music and Sport

* This Day In History – What Happened Today


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.

3 thoughts on “John’s Believe It Or Not … May 4th”

    1. Thanks for your comments, John. I have a lot of trouble with capital punishment. Criminal law is a federal responsibility in Canada, so our Parliament in Ottawa rules on these issues. We abolished capital punishment. I prefer that we don’t execute any criminals, but I don’t have a lot of sympathy for the worst of them. I may tackle this issue in a “Let’s Talk!” post someday.

      Liked by 1 person

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