On This Date, December 21st
1. 1970: Elvis meets with President Nixon
It was on this date in 1970 that Elvis Presley met with President Nixon to offer his services in regards to the government’s war on drugs. The King had met with Vice President Spiro Agnew three weeks prior in Palm Springs where he offered to use his celebrity status to help influence the anti-drug campaign. Elvis apparently walked up to the gates of the White House with two of his bodyguards with a handwritten letter in hand. He handed the letter to the guard at the gate who immediately recognized him as Elvis Presley, but still followed protocol and asked permission to send him up to the White House. Interestingly, Elvis dressed up in purple velvet pants, an open collared shirt, and of course a purple velvet cape over his shoulders. He wasn’t searched upon entering the White House, which seems odd, especially because he happened to be carrying a WWII era Colt .45 at the time. Granted it was actually a gift for the President, but still. In the letter, Elvis expressed his ill feelings towards the “drug culture, hippie elements, student protesters, and Black Panthers”. He also requested that Nixon designates him as a “federal agent at large” in order for him to “help the country out”. After the brief meeting, Elvis surprised the President by leaning in for a hug. Nixon never ended up giving Elvis the official position that he wanted.
2. 1891: The first game of basketball
A Canadian doctor by the name James Naismith made history when he invented the game of basketball and it was on this date in 1891 that the first game was held in Springfield, Massachusetts. Naismith originally came up with the game as a way to occupy a class of disagreeable male students during the winter months. At first, it consisted of two peach baskets that had been nailed to the lower rim of the gym balcony and a soccer ball. After every point, the janitor had to bring out a ladder and remove the ball from the basket. This, of course, became quite the nuisance and eventually the bottoms of the baskets were removed in order to let the ball fall through. There were 13 rules that Naismith came up with for the game and most of them still apply. Actual baskets were used until roughly 1906 when metal hoops, nets and backboards were introduced.
3. 1988: Pan Am Flight 103 explodes over Scotland
It was a sad day on this date in 1988 when a bomb that was hidden inside a cassette player exploded in Pan Am Flight 103 as it traveled at roughly 31,000 feet above Lockerbie, Scotland. The flight was headed from London to New York with 259 passengers onboard headed home for the holidays. Not only were there no survivors, but an additional 11 people living in the town of Lockerbie were killed by the falling debris from the plane explosion. It was later determined that Libyan Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi and Lamen Khalifa Fhimah were the prime suspects in the bombings but wasn’t officially charged until 2001, although al-Megrahi professed his innocence in the matter. Libya eventually took responsibility for the bombing and was required to pay each of the victim’s families a total of $8 million.