May 1959

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May 28, 1959: Spider monkey Miss Baker...
May 14, 1959: Radar signals bounced off the Moon between the UK and the US
... launched into outer space with rhesus monkey Miss Able

The following events occurred in May 1959:

May 1, 1959 (Friday)[edit]

May 2, 1959 (Saturday)[edit]

  • Jerry Unser Jr. was fatally injured while practicing for the Indianapolis 500. Unser's car struck a retaining wall at 133 mph and burst into flame, and he died 15 days later from his burns. As a result, Indy racing officials required all drivers to wear fire-resistant suits in practice and in competition.[5]
  • Four white men in Tallahassee, Florida, kidnapped and raped a black woman near the campus of Florida A & M University, beginning a case that attracted nationwide attention. Ultimately, an all-white jury convicted the four men, and on June 22, the Judge W. May Walker sentenced them to life in prison.[6]

May 3, 1959 (Sunday)[edit]

  • A body was found in the shallow waters of a slough (wetland) of the Columbia River near Camas, Washington, and soon confirmed to be that of 10-year-old Susan Martin, one of five members of a Portland, Oregon, family that had vanished almost five months earlier.[7] On December 7, 1958, Ken and Barbara Martin, and their three daughters, had left home to buy a Christmas tree, and never returned. The mystery garnered national attention.[8] The next day, the body of 12-year-old Virginia Martin was found at the Bonneville Dam. No trace of the other three victims was ever located, nor was their car, a red and white station wagon.[9] More than fifty years later, the mystery remained unsolved.[10]

May 4, 1959 (Monday)[edit]

  • The first Grammy Awards were bestowed by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, in a ceremony held at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills. The Music from Peter Gunn, by Henry Mancini, was album of the year, and Doenico Modugno's Volare was song of the year. The Champs' Tequila won the award for best rhythm & blues performance. "Grammy" is an abbreviation for the Gramophone Award.[11]
  • On a day in which a white man was exonerated from charges of rape of a black woman, and a black man convicted of rape of a white woman, Robert Williams of the NAACP declared in Monroe, North Carolina, "We must meet violence with violence," [12]
  • In a rare appearance before Congress, former U.S. President Harry S. Truman testified in favor of a repeal of the two-terms amendment. "You don't have to be very smart to know that an officeholder who is not eligible for re-election loses a lot of influence." [13]

May 5, 1959 (Tuesday)[edit]

May 6, 1959 (Wednesday)[edit]

  • South Vietnam's President Ngo Dinh Diem promulgated "Law 10/59" to combat opposition by the communist Viet Cong. Under Article I, the death penalty could be invoked for murder and for other crimes, including theft of farm implements, and under Article III, a person found guilty of belonging to "an organization designed to help to prepare or perpetrate" such crimes could be executed. Death was by beheading, and traveling military tribunals brought guillotines along to carry out sentences.[18]
  • The Armed Forces Special Weapons Project, which oversaw the American nuclear arsenal, was reorganized as DASA, the Defense Atomic Support Agency. Later renamed the Defense Nuclear Agency (1971) and then the Defense Special Weapons Agency (1996), the former DASA is now part of the Defense Threat Reduction Agency.[19]

May 7, 1959 (Thursday)[edit]

  • The largest crowd ever to attend a Major League Baseball game up that time —93,103—turned out for an exhibition between the NL Dodgers and the AL Yankees (who won 6–2), at Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles, for Roy Campanella Night, to honor the Dodgers catcher who had been paralyzed in a car crash the year before.[20] The record stood for nearly half a century, until March 29, 2008, in another exhibition game at the L.A. Coliseum, when 115,300 came out for a charity game between the Dodgers and the Red Sox (who won 7–4).[21] In a game that did count, Stan Musial of the Cardinals hit his 400th home run in a 4–3 win over the visiting Cubs.[22]
  • Two burglars broke into the apartment of socialite Mary G. Roebling at the Hotel Hildebrecht in Trenton, New Jersey, loaded nearly one million dollars worth of gems and furs into a cardboard box and rode down the hotel elevator for their getaway—where New York City police were waiting for them. The police had been following the pair and their driver since February 2, after being tipped off.[23]

May 8, 1959 (Friday)[edit]

  • The first Little Caesars pizza restaurant was opened. Mike Ilitch and Marilyn Ilitch began the chain with a store in Garden City, Michigan.[24]
  • The Egyptian tour boat Dandara sank in the Nile River near Qalyub, drowning 150 of the 300 people on board.[25] The overloaded boat, ferrying agricultural engineers and their families to a picnic, was only six yards from shore when a sudden leak caused it to founder in water 50 feet deep, and then capsized. Most of the victims were women and children, trapped below decks. The skipper of the ship was arrested for negligence.[26]
  • An F-84 jet fighter crashed into a backyard at Northville, Michigan, injuring two children, after the pilot had ejected.[27]
  • The last 30 people were evicted from Chavez Ravine in Los Angeles under court order, and their homes were bulldozed to make way for Dodger Stadium.[28]
  • Matvei Zakharov was made a Marshal of the Soviet Union
  • Died: Donald A. Quarles, 64, died of a heart attack. Quarles had been expected to succeed Neil McElroy later in the year as U.S. Secretary of Defense.[29]

May 9, 1959 (Saturday)[edit]

  • Alfred H. Fuller, President of the Fuller Brush Company and the son of company founder Alfred C. Fuller, was killed, along with his wife, when a blown rear tire crashed their Mercedes-Benz near Hawthorne, Nevada.[30]
  • The legislature for Eritrea voted to become part of Ethiopia, with the President being redesignated as "Chief of the Eritrean Administration under Haile Selassie, Emperor of Ethiopia".[31]

May 10, 1959 (Sunday)[edit]

May 11, 1959 (Monday)[edit]

  • The foreign ministers of Britain, France, the Soviet Union and the United States met in Geneva for a 17-day conference on the reunification of Germany, without coming to an agreement.[33]

May 12, 1959 (Tuesday)[edit]


May 13, 1959 (Wednesday)[edit]

  • The deadline, for Communist Pathet Lao troops to lay down their weapons or join the ranks of the Royal Army of Laos, expired at noon. One battalion at Xieng Ngeun surrendered peacefully, while the other escaped and continued to fight. Pathet Lao leader Prince Souphanouvong was placed under house arrest two days later, but would become the President of Laos in 1975 after the Communists triumphed over the royal government.[37]

May 14, 1959 (Thursday)[edit]

May 15, 1959 (Friday)[edit]

  • Generals Richard G. Stilwell and Edward G. Lansdale delivered what was later described as "one of the most influential military documents of the past half century" to President Eisenhower. The report "Training Under the Mutual Security Program (With Emphasis on Development of Leaders)" proposed using the American military to further "political stability, economic growth, and social change" in developing nations.[40]
  • The Caravelle inaugurated passenger jet service for Air France and for the Scandinavian airline SAS.[41]
  • Fidel Castro announced an end to war crimes trials that had been conducted since his takeover of Cuba in January. An unofficial count was that 621 people had been executed for war crimes.[42]

May 16, 1959 (Saturday)[edit]

May 16, 1959: The Triton Fountain was inaugurated in Valletta, Malta

May 17, 1959 (Sunday)[edit]

  • Cristo-Rei was dedicated on an overlook over Lisbon, Portugal. It was inspired by the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and inaugurated on May 17, 1959. The base of the monument, by architect António Lino, is in the form of a gate, standing 75 m (246 ft) tall. At the top is a statue of Christ the Redeemer, designed by sculptor Francisco Franco de Sousa, 28 m (92 ft)-tall.
  • Cuba's Agrarian Reform Law took effect, seizing all foreign owned land and redistributing it to Cuban families.[42]
  • Plácido Domingo made his operatic debut, as the character Matteo Borsa in a production of Rigoletto.[44]
  • Born:

May 18, 1959 (Monday)[edit]

  • The first Arabic-language commercial television station began broadcasting, as CLT (Compagnie Libanaise de Television) went on the air in Beirut, Lebanon.[45] Broadcasting on Channel 9, the network is now part of Télé Liban.
  • Hours after his divorce from Elaine Davis became final, Mickey Rooney married his fifth wife, Barbara Ann Thomson. The New York Daily News headline read "Half-Pint Takes a Fifth".[46]
  • Died:

May 19, 1959 (Tuesday)[edit]

May 20, 1959 (Wednesday)[edit]

  • A group of 4,978 Japanese-Americans who had renounced their U.S. citizenship during World War II were restored to citizenship by the U.S. Justice Department.[49]
  • Born: Bronson Pinchot, American actor, as Bronson Poncharavsky in New York City

May 21, 1959 (Thursday)[edit]

May 22, 1959 (Friday)[edit]

  • Brigadier General Benjamin O. Davis, Jr., Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations, Headquarters U.S. Air Forces in Europe, Wiesbaden, Germany, was nominated for a temporary promotion to Major General, making him the first African-American to be so nominated.[54] His promotion to two-star rank became effective on June 30 and lasted until May 16, 1960, making him the highest ranking Negro officer in the United States military. A permanent promotion followed in 1962, and Davis attained lieutenant general rank in 1965, retiring in 1998 as the first African-American 4-star general.[55] Davis's father, Benjamin O. Davis, Sr., had been the first African-American General, attaining the rank of brigadier general in 1940.

May 23, 1959 (Saturday)[edit]

May 24, 1959 (Sunday)[edit]

John Foster Dulles, 1888–1959
  • The Anglo-Soviet Long Term Trade Agreement was signed, marking the first significant agreement between the U.S.S.R. and a Western nation since World War II, was signed. The five-year trade pact was renewed in 1964 and 1969.[58]
  • Born: Pelle Lindbergh, Swedish-born NHL goaltender, in Stockholm (killed in auto crash, 1985)
  • Died: John Foster Dulles, who had recently resigned as U.S. Secretary of State (serving 1953–1959), died of cancer in Washington. He was eulogized by President Eisenhower as "one of the truly great men of our time".[59]

May 25, 1959 (Monday)[edit]

  • Mass murderer Charles Starkweather was granted a temporary reprieve 98 minutes before his 6:00 a.m. scheduled execution. Federal judge Richard Robinson of Omaha had been woken up at 1:45 to hear the motion, and signed the stay at 4:23 so that Starkweather, who had killed 11 people the year before, could have more time to perfect an appeal.[60] The 20-year-old killer lived for one more month before going to the electric chair at 12:02 a.m. on June 25, 1959.[61]

May 26, 1959 (Tuesday)[edit]

  • Harvey Haddix of the Pittsburgh Pirates did what no other baseball player had ever accomplished by pitching a perfect game – no hits, no runs, no errors—for 12 innings in Milwaukee, but Milwaukee Braves pitcher Lew Burdette was also hurling a shutout, and the score remained 0–0 going into the 13th inning. Felix Mantilla reached first base and the Braves went on to win 1–0. Haddix, who almost sat out the game because he was recovering from the flu, said later that he knew he had been pitching a no-hitter, but did not realize he had had a perfect game going until later.[62]
  • The 1964 Summer Olympic Games were awarded to Tokyo, receiving 34 of the 58 votes cast at the IOC meeting in Munich. Runner up was Detroit with 10 votes, followed by Vienna and Brussels.[63]
  • In fiction, Sally Brown, Charlie Brown's little sister, was born in the comic strip Peanuts. ",Chicago Daily Tribune, May 26, 1959, p2-2

May 27, 1959 (Wednesday)[edit]

  • Nikita Khrushchev's ultimatum for action on Berlin expired. The Soviet premier had notified the Western powers on November 27, 1958, that if occupying armies were not withdrawn from West Berlin within six months, access through East Germany to the city would be closed off. The Geneva talks that began on May 11 halted action on the ultimatum. The late U.S. Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, who had said in 1958, "We are not afraid of May 27, 1959", was buried on that date, and the participants in the Geneva talks, including Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko, attended the ceremonies at Arlington.[64]
  • National Semiconductor was formed by eight former engineers of Sperry Rand Corporation for the purpose of producing transistors for electronic products.[65]

May 28, 1959 (Thursday)[edit]

  • Two female monkeys became the first animals launched by NASA into outer space and returned safely to Earth. Able, a 7-pound rhesus, and Baker, a 1-pound spider monkey, were placed in the nose cone of a Jupiter rocket and sent 300 miles aloft from Cape Canaveral, and recovered, unharmed, in the Caribbean Sea 1,100 miles away.[25]
  • A passenger train in Indonesia derailed and fell into a ravine, killing 85 people and injuring 47. Sabotage was suspected in the crash in the Tasikmalaja area of West Java.[66]

May 29, 1959 (Friday)[edit]

May 30, 1959 (Saturday)[edit]

  • The first trial of a hovercraft took place at Cowes in Britain.[68]
  • In elections in Singapore, the Peoples Action Party, led by Lee Kuan Yew, won in a landslide, capturing 43 of the 51 seats in Parliament.[69]
  • The Auckland Harbour Bridge, 1020 meters (3,348 feet) long, was opened in New Zealand.[70]
  • Louisiana Governor Earl K. Long voluntarily entered a mental hospital in Texas, and spent the next four weeks fighting efforts to have him committed.[25]
  • An invasion of Nicaragua was made when two planes with rebel soldiers, under the direction of Nicaraguan-exile Enrique Lacayo Farfan, landed and fought with government troops. The rebellion was put down by June 12.[33]
  • After the calling off of the 1955 Anglo-Iraqi Agreement, the last British troops in Iraq left peacefully.[71]
  • Died: Raúl Scalabrini Ortiz, 61, Argentinian journalist

May 31, 1959 (Sunday)[edit]

  • Memorial Day Weekend closed at midnight, and was counted as a two-day holiday weekend for the last time, with May 30 falling on a Saturday. The accidental death toll broke the record for a 54-hour weekend. The 310 traffic fatalities recorded by the National Safety Council from 6 pm Friday to Midnight Sunday far exceeded the 1953 record of 241. There were 150 more accidental deaths, including 101 drownings, for a total of 460 dead in 54 hours.[72] When May 30 fell on a Saturday again in 1964, Memorial Day weekend was counted as a three-day period starting on Thursday evening.


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  2. ^ Yuri Smertin, Kwame Nkrumah (International Publishers Co, 1987), pp86–88
  3. ^ Africana: Civil Rights: An A-to-Z Reference of the Movement that Changed America (Running Press, 2005), p150
  4. ^ Howard B. Rockman, Intellectual Property Law for Engineers and Scientists (Wiley-IEEE, 2004), p303
  5. ^ Richard Melzer, Buried Treasures (Sunstone Press, 2008), p151
  6. ^ Glenda Alice Rabby, The Pain and the Promise: The Struggle for Civil Rights in Tallahassee, Florida (University of Georgia Press, 1999), pp77–80
  7. ^ "Body Is Linked To Family", Bridgeport Telegram, May 4, 1959, p1
  8. ^ "Oregon", Collier's Encyclopedia 1960 Yearbook, p460; "Family of 5 Disappears In Tree Hunt", Charleston Daily Mail December 10, 1958, p26; "Candy Lane's Santa Disappears With His Family", Syracuse Herald-American, December 21, 1959, p4
  9. ^ "Family Gone Year Today", Tri-City Herald (Pasco, Washington), December 7, 1959, p1; "3 In Family Feared Lost In Columbia", Tri-City Herald, December 17, 1967, p1
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  11. ^ William Ruhlmann, Breaking records: 100 years of Hits (Routledge, 2004), p123
  12. ^ James Forman, The Making of Black Revolutionaries (University of Washington Press, 1997), pp175–176
  13. ^ "Truman Hits U.S. Ban on Third Term" Oakland Tribune, May 2, 1959, p1
  14. ^ Charles M. Lamb and Stephen C. Halpern, The Burger Court: Political and Judicial Profiles (University of Illinois Press, 1991), p379
  15. ^ Peter McCormick, Supreme At Last: The Evolution of the Supreme Court of Canada (James Lorimer & Company, 2000), p39
  16. ^ Nuclear Shadowboxing: Cold War Redux (DeVolpi, Inc., 2004), pI-13
  17. ^ The World Almanac 1959, pp106–107
  18. ^ Robert S. McNamara, Argument Without End: In Search of Answers to the Vietnam Tragedy (PublicAffairs, 1999) p179
  19. ^ Stephen I. Schwartz, Atomic Audit: The Costs and Consequences of U.S. Nuclear Weapons Since 1940 (Brookings Institution Press, 1998) p61
  20. ^ Mark Langill, Los Angeles Dodgers (Arcadia Publishing, 2004), p34
  21. ^ "A Squeeze Play For L.A.", Los Angeles Times, March 30, 2008
  22. ^ Baseball Digest (April 2004), p17
  23. ^ "Gem Gang Seized With Million Loot", Oakland Tribune, May 2, 1959, p1
  24. ^ Little Caesars Website
  25. ^ a b c The World Almanac 1959, p107
  26. ^ "Skipper Held In Nile River Ship Tragedy", Oakland Tribune, May 10, 1959, p28
  27. ^ "Jet Hits Home, 2 Children Hurt", Oakland Tribune, May 9, 1959, p1
  28. ^ Neil J. Sullivan, The Dodgers Move West (Oxford University Press US, 1989), p179
  29. ^ "Deputy Secy. Of Defense Quarles Dies", Oakland Tribune, May 8, 1959, p1
  30. ^ "Crash Kills Fuller Brush Scion, Wife", Oakland Tribune, May 10, 1959, p1
  31. ^ The Long Struggle of Eritrea for Independence and Constructive Peace (The Red Sea Press, 1988), p28
  32. ^ John H. Watson, Among the Copts (Sussex Academic Press, 2002), p56
  33. ^ a b The World Almanac 1959, p105
  34. ^ Capital 983 Capital 75.
  35. ^ "Two Airliner Crashes Kill 33", The Post-Standard (Syracuse), May 13, 1959, p1
  36. ^ Robert Rodriguez, The 1950s' Most Wanted (Brassey's, 2006), pp272–273
  37. ^ Martin E. Goldstein, American Policy Toward Laos (Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1973), p150
  38. ^ Gerhard Wisnewski, One Small Step?: The Great Moon Hoax and the Race to Dominate Earth from Space (translated by Johanna Collis), pp224–225
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  41. ^ Rémi Kauffer, Disinformation: American Multinationals At War Against Europe (Algora Publishing, 2001), p129
  42. ^ a b The World Almanac 1959, p104
  43. ^ "High School Prom Ends in Tragedy", Nevada State Journal (Reno), May 17, 1959, p1; "Eight Went On A Date ... And Then There Was One" by Saul Pett, AP report, from Oakland Tribune, June 28, 1959, p1
  44. ^ Plácido Domingo and Helena Matheopoulos, Plácido Domingo: My Operatic Roles (Baskerville Publishers, Inc., 2000) p14
  45. ^ William A. Rugh, Arab Mass Media: Newspapers, Radio, and Television in Arab Politics (Greenwood Publishing Group, 2004), pp195–196
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  47. ^ Cheng Guan Ang, Vietnamese Communists' Relations with China and the Second Indochina Conflict, 1956–1962 (McFarland, 1997) p116
  48. ^ Harold H. Martin, Atlanta and Environs: A Chronicle of Its People and Events (University of Georgia Press, 1987) p299
  49. ^ The Encyclopedia of American Facts and Dates p611
  50. ^ Gypsy Rose Lee (with Erik L. Preminger), Gypsy: Memoirs of America's Most Celebrated Stripper (Frog Books, 1999), p348
  51. ^ Lee Bernstein, The Greatest Menace: Organized Crime in Cold War America (University of Massachusetts Press, 2002) pp 4–5
  52. ^ "Navy Bathyscape Makes First Dive", Oakland Tribune, May 21, 1959, p1
  53. ^ a b,9171,811174,00.html
  54. ^ "Negro Named Major General", San Antonio Light, May 23, 1959, p1
  55. ^ USAF Website
  56. ^ "Boy, 2, Killed by Savage Dog Pack", Oakland Tribune, May 23, 1959, p1
  57. ^ "Dog Pack Kills Another Boy, 2", Oakland Tribune, July 5, 1959, p2
  58. ^ Gary K. Bertsch, Controlling East–West Trade and Technology Transfer: Power, Politics, and Policies (Duke University Press, 1988), p207
  59. ^ The World Almanac 1959, p106
  60. ^ "Stay Is Granted Mass Killer To Permit Appeal", Bridgeport Telegram, May 26, 1958, p1
  61. ^ "Starkweather Dies In Chair", Lincoln Evening Journal, June 25, 1959, p1
  62. ^ John McCollister, Tales from the Pirates Dugout (Sports Publishing LLC, 2003), pp71–74
  63. ^ John E. Findling and Kimberly D. Pelle, Encyclopedia of the Modern Olympic Movement (Greenwood Publishing Group, 2004), p166
  64. ^ Derek Leebaert, The Fifty-Year Wound: The True Price of America's Cold War Victory (Back Bay, 2002), p 235
  65. ^ Edwin D. Reilly, Milestones in Computer Science and Information Technology (Greenwood Publishing Group, 2003) p 181
  66. ^ "185 Believed Dead in Java Train Wreck", Oakland Tribune, May 29, 1959, p1
  67. ^ "Big Four Open Secret Parleys", Bridgeport Telegram, May 30, 1959, p1
  68. ^ A.H. Hashmi, Transport (Pustak Mahal, 1994), p18
  69. ^ Edwin Lee, Singapore: The Unexpected Nation (Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 2008), p423
  70. ^ Peter Hinze, New Zealand (Hunter Publishing, Inc, 1998), p34
  71. ^ Aryeh Yodfat and Mordechai Abir, In the Direction of the Gulf: The Soviet Union and the Persian Gulf (Routledge, 1977), p42
  72. ^ "Holiday Road Toll Rises To Record 310", Fresno Bee, June 1, 1959, p1