Jan 1: The four-day Battle of Bình Giã in South Vietnam ends with the Viet Cong’s withdrawal despite holding superior positions. The Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese army launched the attack to take advantage of South Vietnam’s political instability. South Vietnam sends its best forces to counter the invasion, but the North held to its positions. The South Vietnamese lose more than 400 killed and wounded. The U.S. endures its biggest losses to date, with four killed, eleven wounded and three missing.
Jan 2: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., begins his Selma campaign when he meets with 700 African-Americans at Brown Chapel. The meeting is held in defiance of an injunction issued by Dallas County Circuit Court Judge James Hare, prohibiting three or more people to gather together to discuss civil rotes or voter registration in Selma.
Jan 4: During his State of the Union Address, President Lyndon Johnson lays out his “Great Society” programs. Proposed initiatives include a Voting Rights Act, expanded appropriations for job programs, food stamps, Head Start education, housing, rural development, welfare and Social Security programs, and the enactment of Medicare and Medicaid.
Jan 9: The Beatles’ American-release album Beatles ’65 begins its nine week run at the top of the album charts. It includes eight songs from the British album Beatles for Sale. The album includes “I’m A Loser,” “I Feel Fine,” and a cover of Chuck Berry’s “Rock and Roll Music.”
Jan 10: Twenty-one African-American football Players in New Orleans for the AFL All-Start game announce that they will refuse to play in the city. The night before, French Quarter night clubs and restaurants barred their entry while admitting their white teammates (one bouncer even pulled a gun on them), taxies refused to stop to pick them up, and other people hurled racial insults at them. The next day, it will be announced that the game, which was scheduled to be played on the 15th at Tulane Stadium, will be moved to Houston.
Jan 30: The state funeral for Winston Churchill takes place with the largest assembly of statesmen in the world (it won’t be surpassed until the 2005 funeral of Pope John Paul II). Dignitaries from 112 countries attend, including five presidents, one former president, four kings, two queens, and 16 prime ministers. A million people line the route in London. Ninety TV cameras are pressed into service to bring the funeral and procession to an estimated 350 million viewers around the world.
Feb 1: Police in Selma, Alabama arrest Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Rev. Ralph Abernathy and about 250 others as they march from a church to the Courthouse to register to vote. When police announce that they will arrest the entire group, King and Abernathy kneel in prayer before leading the rest of the group the two city blocks to city hall where the jail is located. They are charged with “parading without a permit.” King refuses to be bonded out, saying he will remain behind bars “as long as needed to dramatize the issues.”
Feb 2: Selma police arrest a 605 more protesters. This is in addition to those arrested the day before. The Selma Times-Journal sends a telegram to President Johnson demanding a Congressional investigation into how the city “is being thwarted in an attempt to observe all existing local, state and federal laws.” Publisher Roswell Falkenberry denounces “professional agitators” who have “come in to provoke Selma Negros.” Elsewhere in Alabama, a planned voter registration drive in Tuscaloosa is cancelled due to rising tensions over King’s arrest in Selma.
Feb 5: When a delegation of northern Congressmen travel to Selma to observe the problems African-Americans are having in trying to register to vote, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., agrees to be bailed out from jail. King urges Congress to pass legislation that will ensure African-Americans are able to register and vote. The next day, King will leave Selma for Washington to meet with administration officials to discuss needed legislation.
Feb 7: The Viet Cong launch a mortar attack on Camp Holloway, killing nine American advisers and wounding 108. The attack destroys six Huey helicopters and fifteen other aircraft. President Johnson responds by ordering 49 U.S. Navy bombers to bomb targets in North Vietnam. This marks the first significant early escalation in American involvement in the Vietnam War.
Feb 7: Lester Maddox closes his popular Atlanta restaurant rather than comply with a court order to serve African-American customers in accordance with the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Maddox says he is closing his business because “I cannot betray my vow to God.” He places a sign on a door, blaming his restaurant’s closure on “an act passed by the U.S. Congress, signed by President Johnson and inspired and supported by deadly and bloody Communism.”
Feb 9: Dr. Martin Luther King meets with President Lyndon Johnson, and speaks to reporters afterwards. He says that Johnson has agreed to a voting rights bill as a follow up to the Civil Rights Act if 1964. According to King, Johnson “made it clear to me that he is very determined and his administration is determined to see that all remaining obstacles to voting are removed.” Meanwhile, nearly daily marches and arrests have been taking place in Selma since King left for Washington.
Feb 18: A civil rights protest in Marion, Alabama turns deadly when African-Americans march out of a church to begin a protest against the arrest of an SCLC voter registration worker. As the protesters leave the church, they are met by city police and fifty helmeted state troopers. Police charge the crowd, swinging nightsticks. Reporters say at least ten are beaten, and that TV news crews are attacked during the melee. Police chase some of the protesters into a cafe and shoot Jimmie Lee Jackson, 26, in the stomach as he tries to protect his mother and 82-year-old grandfather. He is hospitalized in critical condition. His grandfather and mother are also hospitalized with injuries from beatings. He will die eight days later.
Feb 19: Reacting to the violence that broke out the day before in nearby Marion, Alabama, Selma civil rights leaders issue a set of demands and call for a massive march in Selma for February 26. The demands include the hiring of African-American police officers, meetings between black leaders and the Selma “power structure,” removal of impediments to the voter registration process, better streets and facilities in African-American neighborhoods, and an investigation into police brutality committed by Sheriff James Clark and his deputies.
Feb 19: Units of the South Vietnamese Army commanded by Lt. Gen. Lâm Văn Phát and Col. Phạm Ngọc Thảo launch a coup attempt against Gen. Nguyễn Khánh. Coup plotters take control of the post office and radio station in Saigon, cutting off communication lines. But the coup will collapse the next day when U.S. forces, in collaboration with South Vietnamese army units, oppose all three leaders on both sides. Khánh will be forced into exile on Feb 22 and replaced with a civilian, Trần Văn Hương, as Prime Minister.
Feb 21: Malcolm X, 39, is assassinated in New York City while preparing to address his new organization, the Organization of Afro-American Unity. As he opens with the greeting “As-salaam Alaikum,” three men rush the stage, one with a sawed-off shotgun and two with semi-automatic handguns. The autopsy will reveal 21 gunshot wounds, including ten buckshot wounds from the shotgun. Three men will later be tried and convicted of murder. Despite those convictions, grave doubts will continue to be expressed over who was actually guilty of the assassination.
Feb 22: As tensions continue to rise in Selma, Alabama, following the police violence that broke out thirty miles to the west in Marion four days earlier, Mississippi’s segregationist former Gov. Ross Barnett shows up to speak before the Selma Citizens Council. He criticizes political leaders who “do not have the backbone of a skinned banana.” As for the six weeks of civil rights protests in Selma, Barnett charges, “The secret purpose of our enemies is to diffuse our blood, confuse our minds and degrade our character as people, that we may not be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. …In our dreadfully dark hour, throughout America, we face absolute extinction of all we hold dear unless we are victorious. … Only when patriotism is dead, when race is degraded, and when this becomes a post-Christian America can these blackhearted people, these sons of Satan, have what they call satisfaction.”
Feb 23: The remains of Irish nationalist Roger Casement are reburied in a state funeral in the Republic of Ireland. Casement was hanged by the British on August 3, 1916, for his role in the Easter Uprising, and his body had been buried in the Pentonville Prison in Briton.
Feb 23: Two mosques of the Nation of Islam, in Harlem and in San Francisco, are firebombed in apparent retaliation for the murder of Malcolm X. No one is killed, but six New York firefighters are injured when the front of the Harlem mosque collapses.
Feb 26: Jimmie Lee Jackson, an African-American man who was shot by police on February 18 when police break up a voter registration march in Marion, Alabama, dies in a Selma hospital from his injuries. Fearing violence, Rev. James Bevel of the SCLC proposes a “freedom walk” from Selma to the Capitol in Montgomery, about fifty miles away. He reasons that the proposed march will “give Negroes something to plan for instead of fighting.” Civil rights leaders will also expand their voter registration drive into other African American-majority counties in western portions of Alabama’s “black belt” — Hale, Greene, Lowndes, Marengo, Perry (Marion), Wilcox — where almost no blacks are registered to vote.
Mar 1: Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., returns to Marion, Alabama for the funeral of Jimmie Lee Jackson, who was shot by an Alabama state trooper on February 18 in the stomach as he tries to protect his mother and 82-year-old grandfather. Jackson died eight days later in a Selma hospital.
Mar 6: Alabama Gov. George Wallace says that a civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery slated to begin the next day “cannot and will not be tolerated.” He claims that such a march on the highways would be hazardous “to our citizens and those traveling through our state.” He says he came to the decision after a large group of legislators met with him the day before to urge the ban. “There will be no march,” Wallace says, “and I have so instructed the Department of Public Safety.”
Mar 7: In an event that will later be remembered as Bloody Sunday, Alabama State Troopers carry out Gov. Wallace’s orders by attacking more than five hundred civil rights marchers as they set out on a march from Selma to Montgomery. About 600 marchers begin the march from Brown Chapel AME, led by Hosea Williams (SCLC) and John Lewis (SNCC). The march moves peacefully though downtown Selma without incident. But when they cross the Edmund Pettus bridge over the Alabama River, they encounter a wall of state troopers and members of Sheriff James Clark’s newly-deputized posse on horseback. When the marchers kneel to pray, police and the posse charge into them, striking them with batons and firing tear gas. Over fifty people are injured and seventeen hospitalized, including Lewis. TV cameras capture the melee.
Mar 7: It takes several hours for the film of that day’s events in Selma to be flown from Alabama to New York and developed. Nearly 50 million Americans tune in to ABC television to see the heavily-promoted broadcast of the 1961 film Judgment at Nuremberg (a move about Nazi war crimes and the Holocaust). At 9:30, the network interrupts the film to show the newly arrived footage from Selma. The juxtaposition of Nazi storm troopers and Alabama state police has a profound effect on the nation’s conscience.
Mar 8: In the case of Louisiana v. United States, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously invalidates a clause in the Louisiana Constitution which provides that a voter has to interpret a random section of either the state or federal constitution “to the satisfaction of the registrar.” Justice Hugo Black writes, “This is not a test, but a trap sufficient to stop even the most brilliant man on his way to the voting booth.” The so-called “interpretation test” resulted in less than 15% of African-Americans being registered to vote.
Mar 9: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who was in Atlanta when the events of “Bloody Sunday” took place in Selma two days earlier, arrives in Selma to lead a second attempt to march to Montgomery. A group of 40 Catholic, Jewish and Protestant ministers, and six Catholic nuns, have also arrived from across the country to join the march. This time, the 2,000-strong crowd is met again by state troopers blocking their path. The marchers kneel in prayer, and then turn back.
Mar 9: Later that day in Selma, three Unitarian Universalist ministers, Revs. James J. Reeb, Orloff Miller, and Clark Olson are attacked and severely beaten by white supremacists. The three minister had just finished dinner at Walker’s Cafe in the black section of Selma and had strayed into a white neighborhood. One of the attackers scream, “You want to know what it’s like to be a real nigger?” Reeb will die two days later in a Birmingham hospital from massive brain injuries. Selma police arrest three men — Elmer Cook, Stanley Hoggle, and Namon O’Neal Hoggle. They will be acquitted by an all-white jury in December
Mar 9: Peaceful protests against events in Selma break out across the nation. More than a thousand blacks and whites march outside the White House to demand federal protection for the marchers in Selma. Mothers and school children march up New York’s Fifth Avenue. Another group of 650 people converge on New York City’s FBI building and snarl traffic. Michigan’s Republican Gov. George Romney and Detroit Mayor Jerome Cavanagh lead an estimated ten thousand people through downtown. Other protests take place throughout the country, including Boston, New Haven, Syracuse, Cleveland, Chicago, Oakland and Los Angeles. Members of both houses of Congress from both parties call for the introduction of voting rights legislation as soon as possible.
Mar 10: More protests against Selma’s “Bloody Sunday” break out across the country. in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Kansas City, Joliet, IL; Cambridge, MA; Madison, WI; Buffalo, and in front of the White House in Washington, D.C. About a dozen civil rights activists join tourists for a White House Tour. Once they reach a ground floor hallway outside the Diplomatic Reception Room, they sit down on the floor and sing, “We Shall Not Be Moved.” The Los Angeles protest turns violent when sheriff’s deputies try to break up an around-the-clock vigil at the downtown Federal Building. In San Francisco, International Longshoremen’s and Warehousemen’s Union President Harry Bridges tells a mass meeting that union members will refuse to handle cargo from Alabama.
Mar 12: When news of Rev. James J. Reeb’s death the day before spreads across the country, tens of thousands of people in the U.S. and Canada stage rallies and memorials. Reeb and two other white ministers had been beaten in Selma on March 9, and Reeb died in a Birmingham hospital two days later. President Johnson sends a jet to Birmingham to carry Reeb’s wife and father back to Boston. The Massachusetts legislature approves a resolution strongly condemning the murder, while the Alabama legislature declines to take up a similar resolution offering its condolences.
Mar 13: President Lyndon Johnson holds a news conference after meeting for 3½ hours with Alabama Gov. George Wallace. Johnson says he told Wallace that “the brutality in Selma last Sunday must not be repeated.” Johnson also says he will ask Congress for a new law to prohibit voter restrictions like the literacy tests used in Alabama to disenfranchise African-American voters. Johnson says he will “press with all the vigor at my command to assure that every citizen of this country is given the right to participate in his government at every level through the complete voting process.” This statement is seen to signal his intent to ensure voting safeguards will apply to state and local elections, as well as federal elections.
Mar 13: Demonstrations continue throughout the country as thousands of Americans in hundreds of cities and towns spend their Saturday protesting events in Selma. In Selma itself, more than a thousand people taunt police lines set up to prevent a march to the courthouse. One group of demonstrators is able to break away and get to the courthouse, where they are met with nearly 200 angry whites. Sheriff deputies pull back and refuse to protect the black demonstrators. City Safety Director Wilson Baker rushes to the scene to lead them safely away.
Mar 13: The soundtrack album for the film Mary Poppins reaches the top of the album charts. It will spend fourteen of the next seventeen weeks at number one, and will go on to become the top selling album of 1965.
Mar 14: Gov. George Wallace appears on a special CBS Face the Nation broadcast from Birmingham, Alabama, where he defiantly condemns the eight weeks of voting rights demonstrations in Selma. “Would New York City allow demonstrations in Times Square for eight weeks?” he asks. “Would they permit demonstrations that long on Pennsylvania Avenue? Of course they wouldn’t.” Wallace claims that he was against the use of force to stop the demonstrations “unless absolutely necessary”, but adds: “I will not be blackjacked or stampeded, as the President said, by accusations of police brutality.” He also held up newspaper clippings showing photos of Northern police using clubs to disperse demonstrators, and challenges the network to turn its attention to those cities. He says he will meet with black leaders at any time, provided they are “residents of this state and not members of groups which have been cited as subversive.” He doubts, though, that it will do any good. “They have bi-racial commissions in cities throughout the country and they still have demonstrations.”
Mar 14: Thousands of Americans turn out all over the U.S. for demonstrations, memorials, and vigils in support of the civil rights marchers in Selma. An estimated 25,000 people fill Boston Common in silent memory of Rev. James J. Reeb, the Boston minister who was beaten to death in Selma. In New York City, about 15,000 blacks and whites join an half-mile parade through Harlem that takes 1½ hours to complete. Another rally of about 15,000 people protest peacefully in Washington, D.C. despite the presence of eight members of the American Nazi Party carrying anti-Black signs. In Louisville, KY., Gov. Edward T. Breathitt and 3,000 others attends a memorial service in front of the Jefferson County Courthouse. Other memorials and demonstrations are reported in: Albany, NY; Albuquerque, NM; Baltimore, MD; Birmingham, AL; Buffalo, NY; Fall River, MA: Flint, MI; Jamestown, NY; Lansing, MI; Los Angeles, CA; Pittsburgh, PA; Poughkeepsie, NY; San Antonio, TX; St. Augustine, FL.; and in Selma.
Mar 15: In a nationally televised address before an extraordinary joint session of Congress, President Lyndon Johnson urges the body to work days, nights and weekends to pass a voting rights bill guaranteeing “the dignity of man and the destiny of democracy, for outside this chamber is the outraged conscience of a nation — the grave concern of many nations — and the harsh judgement of history on our acts.” As he calls for swift action on the bill, which is to be introduced two days later, about half the Southerners sit on their hands. He concludes what will be known as his “We Shall Overcome” speech: “What happened in Selma is part of a far larger movement which reaches into every section and State of America. It is the effort of American Negroes to secure for themselves the full blessings of American life. Their cause must be our cause too. It is not just Negroes, but all of us, who must overcome the crippling legacy of bigotry and injustice. And we shall overcome.”
Mar 16: Mounted deputies of the Montgomery County, Alabama, Sheriff’s Office break up a civil rights demonstration by 600 marchers of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. The deputies, swinging clubs, ride into the crowd, injuring fourteen people, eight of whom are hospitalized. The SNCC had been led to believe that they didn’t need a parade permit to march. Circuit Solicitor David Crosland apologizes later for a “mixup of signals.” A second march of 1,200 people, whose organizers had obtained a parade permit, takes place without incident.
Mar 17: As promised, President Lyndon B. Johnson sends a bill to Congress that will later become the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The bill will ban state literacy tests and other arbitrary requirements, and specifically targets states with low voter turnout of the voting age population. The bill doesn’t name the states, but those which fall under that benchmark are states in which African-Americans have been denied the right to vote.
Mar 17: Federal District Judge Frank M. Johnson rules that a mass civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery is “clearly a reasonable exercise of a right guaranteed by the Constitution.” Johnson orders Gov. George Wallace, state Director of Public Safety Al Lingo, and Dallas County (Selma) Sheriff James Clark to protect the marchers and to allow them to proceed without further hinderance.
Mar 18: Soviet cosmonaut Alexei Leonov leaves the airlock of Voskhod 2 to become the first person to “walk in space.” His spacewalk lasts twelve minutes and nine seconds. Because Leonov’s spacesuit has “ballooned” and stiffened in the vacuum of space, he finds that he can’t bend enough to get through the narrow opening to return to the capsule. During the struggle, his pulse races to 168 beats per minute and he consumes almost all of his oxygen supply. Finally, in desperation, he partially depressurizes this space suit and fights his way back into the capsule.
Mar 18: Alabama Gov. George Wallace, speaking to a joint session of the Alabama Legislature, denounces the federal court order requiring him and other officials to allow the planned march from Selma to Montgomery to take place and to provide protection for the marchers. He call the order “the most unprecedented in the annals of American history, and denounces the demonstrators as “mobs employing the street warfare tactics of the Communists.” He says the march will attract “every left-wing pro-Communist fellow traveller in the country.” He complains that in order to comply with a federal court order requiring him to protect the marchers from Selma, he will need 6,171 men, 489 vehicles, and 15 busses. Wallace says bluntly, “The federal courts created this matter … they can help handle the same..” The legislature responds to Wallace’s speech by passing a resolution branding the march as “asinine and ridiculous” and “highly dangerous” The legislature refuses to foot the bill and calls on President Johnson to either persuade civil rights leaders to call off the march, or to “provide appropriate vicil authorities or officers to assist state and local officials in policing any march or mass demonstrations.” The Montgomery Advertiser reports: “Gov. Wallace received perhaps the most resounding response ever accorded him by the legislature in his appearance. Several women in the audience were in tears as Wallace concluded his speech.”
Mar 18: Later that evening, Alabama Gov. George Wallace carries out the legislature’s resolution by sending a telegram to President Johnson, saying that to comply with the court order, he will need he would require 6,171 men, 489 vehicles, and 15 busses. He says he has only about 300 state troopers and 150 other personnel available. Johnson responds by telling reporters that the federal government doesn’t have civilian personnel in the numbers Wallace has specified, but points out Wallace has at his disposal 10,000 trained members of the Alabama National Guard that the governor can call upon.
Mar 19: The Alabama Legislature, backed by Gov. George Wallace, passes a resolution saying that the planned march from Selma to Montgomery “has been sanctioned by a federal court,” and therefore the cost of its security should be paid for by the federal government. Lt. Gov Jim Allen says that the legislature’s passing the buck “may well be the legislature’s finest hour.” With that resolution in hand, Wallace sends a telegram to President Johnson and throws Alabama’s problems in the federal lap: “I am willing to do whatever is necessary to maintain peace and order, including calling the Alabama National Guard,” he writes. “However, our state is financially unable to bear this burden.”
Mar 20: President Lyndon Johnson sends a telegram to Alabama Gov. George Wallace reminding Wallace that “responsibility for maintaining law and order in our federal system properly rests with state and local government. On the basis of your public statements and your discussions wit me, I thought that you felt strongly about this… Even more surprising was your telegram of yesterday stating that both you and the Alabama legislature, because of monetary considerations, believed that the state is unable to protect American citizens and to maintain peace and order in a responsible manner without federal forces.” Johnson orders the deployment of 3,000 men, including federal troops to do the job. The force consists of 1,900 Alabama National Guardsmen called into federal service, 100 FBI agents, 100 federal marshals, and more than 1,000 U.S. army troops. Johnson also places another 1,000 soldiers on alert for possible duty.
Mar 20: About 250 white demonstrators march on the Federal Building in Montgomery, Alabama, carrying signs, saying, “Outside Clergy, Go Home,” “Pious Phonies, Go Home,” and “LBJ and MLK, Get Off Our Backs.” A man identifying himself as D.H. Hammond, says the march’s purpose is to “stop the Selma march and to get the beatniks out of Alabama.” Rev. Russell Pate mocks the religion professed by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and other ministers, saying: “I do not believe in integration and I believe I have the Bible to back me up.”
Mar 21: After announcing, “We’re on the move now, and we won’t be turned around,” Martin Luther King, Jr., successfully leads about 5,000 civil rights activists in a march from Selma, across the Edmund Pettus Bridge, and onto U.S. Highway 80 toward Montgomery. When they reach their first night’s destination — a temporary camp set up on a cow pasture eight miles from Selma — King tells his followers they are part of “an unstoppable movement.”
Mar 21: Five homemade time bombs are found in African-American neighborhoods in Birmingham, Alabama. They are found inside the black Catholic Church of Our Lady Queen of the Universe, at the home of civil rights lawyer Arthur Shores, a funeral parlor owned by a prominent black businessman, outside of Western Olin Negro High School, and in a home formerly occupied by Martin Luther King., Jr.’s brother. They are disarmed by Army demolition experts.
Mar 22: The Selma-to-Montgomery march resumes for the second day along U.S. Highway 80. The number of marchers is reduced to 300 in compliance with a federal court order limiting the crowd’s size for the two-lane portion of the highway. Cars pass, with white drivers and passengers jeering the marchers. “Go back to where you came from,” yells one “plump white woman” to a group of nuns. “You’re going to burn in hell!” Meanwhile, a sixth time bomb is found in Birmingham outside a black-owned funeral home. The cheap alarm clock used as a timing device had quit running.
Mar 23: Gemini 3, the first American space mission with two astronauts, is launched with Gus Grissom and John Young on board. It is the first launch of a maneuverable spacecraft. The spacecraft makes three orbits around the earth. During the flight, Grissom maneuvers the capsule, rotating it 180 degrees so the crew faces backwards, then aligned it with the horizon so that it is “flying sideways”, before re-orienting it again for re-entry. The entire flight lasts four hours and 52 minutes.
Mar 24: About 4,000 marchers hike the penultimate 14-miles stretch of U.S. Highway 80 from Selma to the outskirts of Montgomery before setting up camp at the City of St. Jude (founded by a Catholic priest in the 1930s to provide nondiscriminatory health care, education and social services). The last mile of the march goes through a downpour. They are joined by Martin Luther King, HR., who has returned from a previously-scheduled speaking engagement in Cleveland, Ohio. Bright orange vests are handed out to the 200 hundred marchers who have walked the entire distance from Selma. That night, nationally-known entertainers hold a “Stars for Freedom Rally” for the drenched, exhausted marchers and more than 25,000 other people who show up under the clearing, starry skies. Those entertainers include: Tony Bennett, Harry Belafonte, Nina Simone, Billy Eckstine, Pete Singer, Joan Baez, the folk group Peter, Paul and Mary; Sammy Davis, Jr., Pernell Roberts (who plays Sammy Cartwright on NBC’s Bonanza), Tony Perkins, Ossie Davis, Shelly Winters, Nipsy Russell, Alan King, Leonard Bernstein, James Baldwin, and former heavyweight champ Floyd Patterson.
Mar 24: The first anti-war “teach-in” of the Vietnam War is held at the University of Michigan, with 49 faculty and 2,500 participants over the next two days. Another teach-in will be held at Columbia University the next night, and at 25 other college campuses over the next three weeks.
Mar 25: A five-day civil rights march from Selma, Alabama, ends with a massive rally in front of the state Capitol building in Montgomery. An estimated 25,000 people crowd onto Dexter Avenue to hear speeches by Rev. Ralph Abernathy, Whitney Young, Andrew Young, Bayard Rusin, and Rosa Parks. The last speaker, Dr. Martin Luther King, says, “Segregation is on its death bed. The only thing that is not certain is how costly will the segregationists and Wallace make the funeral. … Alabama has tried to nurture and defend evil, but evil is choking to death in Alabama’s dusty streets. We are moving toward the land of freedom.” His speech is titled, “How long, not long.”: “I know you are asking today, ‘How long will it take?’. Somebody’s asking, ‘How long will prejudice blind the visions of men…’ How long? Not long, because ‘no lie can live forever’. How long? Not long, because ‘you shall reap what you sow’… How long? Not long, because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”
Mar 25: Viola Liuzza, 29, a white mother of five and a Unitarian Universalist civil rights activist from Detroit, is shot and killed outside of Selma, Alabama. She had been working as a volunteer for the march from Selma to Montgomery. Just the night before, she worked the first aid station at the City of St. Judge. On this night, after the rally ends at the Capitol, she is shuttling marchers Montgomery back to Selma. She completes one trip to Selma and has turned back toward Montgomery for another carload. Leroy Moton, a nineteen-year-old black co-worker is sitting with her in the front seat. As they refuel at a gas station, they are subject to racist abuse. When they stop at a red light on the way out of town, a car pulls up beside them with four members of the local Klan, who see a white woman and a black man sharing a front seat of the car. When the light turns green, Liuzza tries to outrun them. About twenty miles east of Selma on U.S. Highway 80, not far from Lowndesboro, the Klan car overtakes Liuzza and a passenger shoots her twice in the head. Liuzza’s Oldsmobile veers off the road, crashes through a barbed-wire fence and comes to a stop in a pasture. Liuzza dies instantly. Moton is covered in blood, but unharmed.
Mar 26: President Lyndon Johnson, flanked by FBI director J. Edgar Hoover and Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach, goes on national television to announced that four Klansmen — Collie Wilkins, 21, Gary Rowe, 34, William Eaton, 41, and Eugene Thomas, 43 — have been arrested for the shooting death of Viola Liuzza. Johnson said the Klansmen “struck by night as they generally do, for their purposes cannot stand the light of day.” It will turn out that Rowe has been an FBI informant since 1960. The FBI will try to divert attention to Rowe’s participation in the crime by slandering Liuzza. Among the rumors the FBI spreads are that Liuzza was a Communist Party member, a heroin addict, that she abandoned her children, and that she had sex with black men.
Apr 4: North Vietnamese MiG-17 fighters attack an American F-105 formation, shooting down two F-105s. Both pilots are killed in the first aircraft lost in air-to-air combat by either side in the Vietnam war.
Apr 14: Convicted killers Richard Hickock and Perry Smith, made famous in Truman Capote’s “non-fiction novel” In Cold Blood, are executed by hanging at the Kansas State Penitentiary.
Apr 17: The Students for a Democratic Society launch their first mass protest against the Vietnam War in Washington, D.C. Organizers expected 2,000 to attend. They are surprised when an estimated 25,000 protesters actually take part.
Apr 28: Following a coup and counter-coup in the Dominican Republic, the U.S. begins a military occupation of the Caribbean nation to “prevent another Cuba.” Eventually, there will be 23,000 troops occupying the country. This invasion marks the end of the non-intervention “Good Neighbor Policy” that had been in place since the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration.
May 5: During an anti-war protest in Berkeley, 40 young men burn their draft cards in defiance of a federal law requiring all draft-age men to carry the cards with them at all times. While future draft card burnings will be made as a protest against the Vietnam War, this act of protest is against the U.S. invasion of the Dominican Republic.
May 21-23: The largest anti-war teach-in takes place at Berkeley, with 30,000 attending. On the second day of the teach-in, several hundred protesters march to the Draft Board with 19 burning their draft cards.
May 26: The U.S. Senate passes the Voting Rights Act of 1965 in a 77-19 vote. The seventeen Democrats and two Republicans voting against the bill all come from Southern states. They are: Alabama: Joseph Hill (D) and John Sparkman (D); Arkansas: James Fullbright (D) and John McClellan (D); Florida: Spessard Holland (D) and George Smathers (D); Georgia: Richard Russell (D) and Herman Talmadge (D); Louisiana: Allen Ellender (D) and Russell Long (D); Mississippi: James Eastland (D) and John Stennis (D); North Carolina: Sam Irvin (D) and Benjamin Jordan (D); South CarolinaL Donald Russell (D) and Strom Thurmond (R); Texas: John Tower(R); and Virginia: Absalom Robertson (D) and Harry Byrd (D). One southern Senator, Ralph Yarborough (D-TX), votes yes.
Jun 3: Gemini 4 is launched from Cape Kennedy with Ed White and James McDivitt on board. While the Gemini capsule is on its third orbit, White makes the first U.S. space walk. He stays outside the capsule 20 minutes. Gemini 4 will remain in orbit for four days.
Jun 12: South Vietnam’s President Phan Khắc Sửu and Prime Minister Phan Huy Quát, who had been leading the country’s civilian government under military oversight, announce their resignations less than eight months after forming a government. Maj. Gen Nguyễn Văn Thiệu is named President. He will hold that job until just shortly before South Vietnam’s fall in 1975.
Jul 9: The U.S. House of Representatives votes 333-85 to pass the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The Senate has already passed a similar measure.
Jul 25: The U.S. Air Force loses a jet to a North Vietnamese surface-to-air missile for the first time when An F-4 is shot down during a bombing raid over North Vietnam. Capt. Roscoe Henry Fobair is killed, and Cap. Richard Paul Keirn is taken prisoner.
Jul 28: During a televised news conference, President Lyndon Johnson announces a major escalation of the Vietnam war, ordering the number of U.S. troops increased from 75,000 to 125,000. He also orders the more than doubling of the number of young men drafted per month, from 17,000 to 35,000. He makes this announcement at noon, when there is a smaller TV audience.
Aug 5: The Indo-Pakistani War of 1965 breaks out as about 10,000 Pakistani armed infiltrators cross into India disguised as civilians. India captures several infiltrators. Pakistanis who escape detection strike their targets.
Aug 6: President Lyndon Johnson signs the Voting Rights Act of 1965 into law. The law prohibits literacy tests and other arbitrary impediments used to deny African-Americans the right to vote. The bill was introduced into Congress on a wave of horror over “Bloody Sunday” in Selma at the Edmund Pettus Bridge. In Mississippi alone, the percentage of eligible black voters who are registered to vote will increase from 7% in 1964 to 59% in 1968.
Aug 9: U.S. Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach invokes the newly-enacted Voting Rights Act and orders federal examiners to go to nine Southern counties to register African-Americans to vote. The counties affected are: East Carroll, East Felicia, and Plaquemines Parishes in Louisiana, Le Flore (Greenwood) and Madison Counties in Mississippi, and Dallas (Selma), Hale (Greensboro), Lowndes, and Marengo Counties in Alabama. Katzenbach points out that in Hale County, Alabama, the number of registered white voters actually exceeds 100% of the white voting age population, but the percentage of eligible black voters registered remains in single digits.
Aug 10: President Johnson signs the Housing and Urban Development Act into law. Johnson says: “Education matters a great deal. Health matters. Jobs matter. Equality of opportunity and individual dignity matter very much. But legislation and labors in all of these fields can never succeed unless and until every family has the shelter and the security, the integrity and the independence, and the dignity and the decency of a proper home.”
Aug 11: The Watts Riots break out in Los Angeles. Six days of looting and arson begins when an African-American is arrested for drunk driving. A scuffle breaks out, fueled by frustrations over decades of racially-motivated police brutality. The riots will result in 34 deaths, 1,032 injured, 3,952 arrested, and over $40 million in property damage. It will take 4,000 California National Guardsmen augmenting LA Police to quell the riot.
Aug 15: The Beatles perform rock music’s first stadium concert when they play before 55,600 screaming fans at Shea Stadium in New York City. Their 1965 North American tour will take them to outdoor stadiums in Atlanta, Chicago, Minneapolis and San Diego.
Aug 19: The Second Auschwitz trial of 22 defendants ends in West Germany when seventeen mid- to lower-level officials in the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp complex are sentenced. Six are sentenced to life imprisonment, including Sgt. Wilhelm Boger (described as the camp’s “master torturer,” convicted of “personally committing 114 murders and aiding many more”), Sgt. Oswald Kaduk (The “Butcher of Auschwitz”) Medical Sgt. Joseg Kiehr (who admitted killing about 300 people by injecting carbolic acid into their heart), and Emil Bednarek, an inmate who sold out fellow prisoners in exchange for special favors.
Sep 6: Indian Army troops pour across the border into Pakistan in Punjab Province, which opens a second front along the border. Pakistani aircraft bomb Indian airfields and drop paratroopers fourteen miles inside the border behind the first front in Jammu and Kashmir state.
Sep 8: The Indian Army begins pushing toward the Pakistani capital of Karachi, while the Pakistani air force attempts an air attack on New Delhi, and the Pakistani Navy raids India’s coasts. The U.S. suspends military aid to both countries.
Sep 9: Hurricane Betsy makes landfall near New Orleans with winds of 145 mph, making it a Category 4 hurricane. Once inland, Betsy is slow to weaken. The hurricane drives a storm surge into Lake Pontchartrain, which causes a levee breech in New Orleans. Several neighborhoods are flooded, especially the lower Ninth Ward. Betsy will cause 81 deaths, mostly in Louisiana.
Sep 14-18: U.S. television networks roll out their new fall schedules with premieres of F-Troop, Green Acres, Gidget, Hogan’s Heroes, I Spy, I Dream of Jeannie, Get Smart, and Lost In Space. Also debuting that week: My Mother the Car, on NBC, which is remembered as the worst television show of all time.
Sep 24-26: The third annual conference of the East Coast Homophile Organizations (ECHO) is held at the Barbizon Plaza Hotel in New York City. This year’s conference draws leaders from homophile groups from across America, far beyond just the East Coast. Those leaders agree to meet again in Kansas City on Feb 19 to explore the possibility of national cooperation among the separate groups.
Sep 24: President Lyndon Johnson issues an Executive Order prohibiting employment discrimination by federal contractors on the basis of race, color, religion or national origin. The order will be amended in 1967 to include gender.
Sep 28: Cuban Premier Fidel Castro announces that anyone who wants to emigrate to the U.S. will be free to do so. In a speech in Havana’s Revolutionary Square broadcast live on radio and TV, Castro says, “We are not going to force people to like our revolution and our socialism, nor do we have any reason to do so.” He adds that people who want to leave will have to write to the Ministry of the Interior to ask for a permit before they can go.
Oct 3: In a ceremony on Liberty Island beside the Statute of Liberty, President Lyndon Johnson signs the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 into law. The Act replaces a 1921 law which placed limits on immigration base on the number of people from each country already living in the U.S. The old law effectively encouraged immigration from Northern and Western Europe and discouraged immigration from elsewhere in the world. Johnson says, “For over four decades the immigration policy of the United States has been twisted and has been distorted by the harsh injustice of the national origins quota system…. Today, with my signature, this system is abolished. We can now believe that it will never again shadow the gate to the American Nation with the twin barriers of prejudice and privilege.”
Oct 4: Pope Paul VI visits the U.S. to speak at the United Nations. While in New York, he celebrates a Mass before 90,000 people in Yankee Stadium. This is the first ever visit to the United States by a Roman Catholic Pontiff.
Oct 15: Roman Catholic Bishops at the Second Vatican Council vote 1,763 to 250 to approve Nostrae Aetate, the Declaration on the Relation of the Church with Non-Christian Religions. The declaration states that the Jewish race cannot be blamed for the death of Jesus, and denounces any attempt to describe Jewish people as “rejected” or “accursed” by God. Pope Paul VI will promulgate Nostrae Aetate and four other declarations on October 28.
Oct 17: The New York World’s Fair in Flushing Meadows is open for its last day. Over its 1964 and 1965 runs, the fair has attracted 50 million visitors, yet its deficit will reach over $35 million ($275 million today).
Oct 22: Cuba’s Premier Fidel Castro “clarifies” his decree allowing free emigration to the U.S. for anyone wishing to leave. He says that young men of draft age (between 17 to 26) won’t be allowed to leave, nor will physicians, nurses, engineering school graduates, and other technical specialists.
Oct 28: The Gateway Arch in St. Louis is ceremoniously topped out when the keystone piece, a nine-ton, eight-foot triangular section, is set in place. About ten thousand people gather to watch the topping out of the nation’s tallest monument. The keystone fits with less than six inches to spare.
Oct 30: A pro-Vietnam War demonstration in New York City draws 25,000. The march on Fifth Avenue is led by five Medal of Honor winners. It is sponsored by a member of the New York City Council, and the New York Journal-American.
Oct 31: Dan Burros, 28, an American Nazi Party member and recruiter for the New York City branch of the United Klans of America, commits suicide after the New York Times publishes a profile which includes the fact that he had been born to Jewish parents, raised a Jew, had his bar mitzvah as an adolescent, and was a star pupil at a Hebrew School. He also has a fiery temper, and was discharged from the Army in 1955 for “reasons of unsuitability, character, and behavior disorder.” After the Times article appears, Burros tells his Klansman roommate, “I ain’t got nothing to live for,” and shoots himself.
Nov 2: Norman Morrison, a 31-year-old Quaker, sets himself on fire in front of the Pentagon to protest the Vietnam War. He has his youngest daughter with him, one year old Emily. He either sets her down or hands her off before striking the match. Flames shoot ten feet into the air. His act of self-immolation takes place fifty yards from, and within sights of, the office of Defense Secretary Robert McNamara. North Vietnam will memorialize him with a postage stamp.
Nov 11: Prime Minister Ian Smith and his white minority government unilaterally declares independence from Britain. Hours later, the U.N. General Assembly will vote 102-2 to condemn Rhodesia’s move. For the next fourteen years, the only other nation to recognize Rhodesia will be neighboring white-minority ruled South Africa.
Nov 15: The U.S. Supreme Court rules, 8-0 (with Justice Byron White abstaining), that the Subversive Activities Control Act of 1950 is unconstitutional. The law required Communist Party members to register with the Justice Department. The Court finds that the requirement violates the Fifth Amendment’s protection against self-incrimination,.
Nov 25: The Defense Department reports that 240 Americans have been killed in the Vietnam War during the week of November 14-20. It is the deadliest week of the war for Americans to date. During the four years of 1960 through 1964, there had been 244 American deaths, only slightly more than the deaths for this one week. To date, there have been 1,335 killed and 6,131 wounded.
Nov 27: “The March on Washington for Peace in Vietnam” draws 35,000 demonstrators who picket White House, then march on the Washington Monument. It is the largest anti-Vietnam War protest to date. As the first large-scale protest against the war, organizers are very protective of public perception of the movement. Organizers ask protesters to only carry signs with “authorized slogans,” and to refrain from demanding immediate withdrawal or burning the American flag.
Dec 4: An Eastern Airlines flight collides with a TWA flight over Carmel, New York. The TWA flight lands safely at JFK despite losing 30 feet of its left wing. The Eastern flight crash lands into a pasture and catches fire. Miraculously, only four of the fifty-four on board survive.
Dec 10: An all-white jury in Selma, Alabama, acquits three men of all criminal charges in connection with the March 9 murder of Rev. James Reeb. The three Klansmen — Elmer Cook, and brothers Namon O’Neal “Duck” Hoggle and Stanley Hoggle — are set free in a trial in which all thirteen black potential jurors are struck from the panel. District Attorney Blanchard McLeod, a self-avowed segregationist, puts on an anemic prosecution. The brother of a defense witness serves as a juror. And Sheriff Jim Clark pays the jurors a friendly visit during deliberations. No one objects. “Duck” Hoggle will go on to become a well-known automotive dealer in Selma. A fourth man, R.B. Kelly, was also charged in the attack, but he skipped town and was never tried.
Dec 18: The longest manned spaceflight so far comes to an end when Gemini 7 splashes down in the Atlantic Ocean. The flight ends after 13days, 18 hours and 35 minutes, and after completing 206 orbits around the earth.
Dec 22: The film Doctor Zhivago is released.