This Day in History: a President Dies; a Delta Flight Crashes; and Gabby Douglas Wins Olympic Title

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President Harding dies; Calvin Coolidge becomes President
President William Harding, elected in 1920, died on August 2, 1923 – leading to Calvin Coolidge’s tenure as commander-and-chief.

President Harding struggled to revive the economy after World War I, resulting in major congressional losses for the Republican Party in the 1922 midterm elections, before the economy picked up substantially in 1923.

Harding was also a vocal proponent for equal political rights for African-Americans; something his vice president and successor, Calvin Coolidge, continued. He died of heart attack. He was 57.

President Coolidge took over the following morning. One of his first major accomplishments was granting citizenship to all Native-Americans born in the United States, including reservations.

Cooling won reelection in 1924 fairly easily; he did not run for re-election in 1928, claiming Washington took a “heavy toll on” on him and those dear to him. Republican President Herbert Hoover won in 1928, before losing in a landslide to Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1932.

Democratic candidates would hold the office of President for 28 of the 36 years following Hoover’s loss, at a time when some believed Coolidge should have been the nominee.

Albert Einstein urges atomic research; FDR signs Hatch Act (1939)
During President Franklin Roosevelt’s second term, he implemented the Hatch Act of 1939 – signed into law on August 2 – preventing employees of the executive branch from partaking in political activism.

It was most recently amended in 2012.

On the same day, Albert Einstein wrote a recommendation that the United States begin developing nuclear weapons – a response to fears that Germany would soon have such capabilities.

It took only six years before the United States, not only developed, but also used nuclear-explosives in battle; dropping a bomb on Hiroshima in Japan, on August 6, 1945, and three days later in Nagasaki, effectively ending all World War II conflicts.

White House Counsel John Dean sentenced to prison (
On August 2, 1974; John Dean was sentenced to one-to-four years, after pleading guilty to obstruction of justice in the Watergate scandal.

Dean, White House Counsel for President Nixon from 1970-1973, only served four months in prison.

Dean, formerly a Republican, called for the impeachment of President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney for their alleged lies to Congress. His books Worse than Watergate and Conservatives without Conscience – the latter being a play on Barry Goldwater’s The Conscience of a Conservative – argue that modern, American conservatism has lost its way.

John Dean also told USA Today that Bush was “the first president to admit to an impeachable offense,” when it became public that the NSA wiretapped Americans, without warrants, which Bush allowed.

Dean has also been a vocal critic of President Donald Trump; and famously argued with Senator Lindsey Graham over the history of the Watergate scandal.

Delta Air Lines Flight 191 crashes near DFW-Int (1985)
On August 2, 1985, Delta Air Lines Flight 191 flew through inclement weather and crashed, killing 136 of the 163 passengers and crew, as well as the driver of a car it collided with.

The plane touched down on the westbound side of Highway 114, colliding with the car of William Mayberry, who died as a result. Most of the 24 surviving passengers, and three crew members, were transported to Parkland Memorial Hospital, according to a story in Time Magazine: Like a Wall of Napalm.

The crash had an extensive effect on aviation and legal practices. DFW-International was only a stopping point for the flight’s intended destination – LAX.

Gabby Douglas claims all-around Olympic title
Gabby Douglas, Olympic gymnastics champion, became the first African-American woman to the Olympic all-around title; the fourth American woman to do so.

Douglas, who competed for the ‘Fierce Five’ and ‘Final Five’, narrowly defeated two Russian gymnasts and teammate Aly Raisman. Teammate on the ‘Final Five’, Simone Biles won the all-around championship in 2016.

Douglas’ life has been adapted into a biopic, The Gabby Douglas Story, and she starred in a reality television series, Douglas Family Gold. She is only 21 years old.

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