1861 – Lincoln inaugurated
On this day in 1861, Abraham Lincoln becomes the 16th president of the United States. In his inauguration speechLincoln extended an olive branch to the South, but also made it clear that he intended to enforce federal laws in the states that seceded.
Since Lincoln’s election in November 1860, seven states had left the Union. Worried that the election of a Republican would threaten their rights, especially slavery, the lower South seceded and formed the Confederate States of America. In the process, some of those states seized federal properties such as armories and forts. By the time Lincoln arrived in Washington, D.C.,for his inauguration, the threat of war hung heavy in the air. Lincoln took a cautious approach in his remarks, and made no specific threats against the Southern states. As a result, he had some flexibility in trying to keep the states of the upper South–North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, Arkansas, Missouri, Kentucky, Maryland, and Delaware–in the Union.
1952 – Ronald Reagan and Nancy Davis marry
On this day in 1952, actor and future President Ronald Reagan marries his second wife, actress Nancy Davis. The couple wed in Los Angeles at the Little Brown Church in the Valley.
Nancy Davis, whose real name is Anne Frances Robbins, met her husband in 1951. (MGM Studios signed her to a contract and billed her as Nancy Davis for her first screen role in the film Shadow on the Wall). The two met in 1951, while Reagan was serving as president of the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) and Nancy was embroiled in an effort to remove her name from the notorious McCarthy-era Hollywood blacklist of possible communist sympathizers. The list actually referred to another actress of the same name, but it was preventing Davis from finding work, so the future first lady contacted Reagan to see if he, as SAG president, could help clear up the confusion. The two fell in love and were married a year later.
1995 – John Candy dies
The larger-than-life comedic star John Candy dies suddenly of a heart attack on this day in 1995, at the age of 43. At the time of his death, he was living near Durango, Mexico, while filming Wagons East, a Western comedy co-starring the comedian Richard Lewis.
Born in 1950, Candy’s first professional acting work was in children’s theater in his native Canada. In 1972, he was accepted into the prestigious Second City comedy troupe in Toronto, where he would become a regular writer and performer for the group’s television program, SCTV, alongside other rising comics like Eugene Levy (later Candy’s co-star in Splash) and Harold Ramis (Ghostbusters). When SCTV moved to network television in 1981, Candy moved with it; that year and the next, he won Emmy Awards for writing for the show. Candy’s recurring (and most famous) SCTV persona was Yosh Shmenge, a clarinet player in a polka band. He would reprise the character in a mock documentary, The Last Polka, on HBO in 1985 and would also play a polka musician in the smash hit Home Alone (1990).
2005 – Martha Stewart is released from prison
On this day in 2005, billionaire mogul Martha Stewart is released from a federal prison near Alderson, West Virginia, after serving five months for lying about her sale of ImClone stock in 2001. After her televised exit from the facility, Stewart flew on a chartered jet from nearby Greenbrier International Airport to New York, where she would serve out her remaining five-month home confinement on her 153-acre Bedford, New York, estate.
On December 21, 2001, Stewart sold about 4,000 shares of ImClone Systems, a company run by her friend Sam Waksal that develops cancer-therapy drugs. The next day, the company s stock tanked after news broke that ImClone s newest cancer drug, Erbitux, had been rejected by the FDA. Waksal, who also sold stock before the drug s rejection was made public, was arrested on charges of insider trading and later sentenced to more than seven years in prison.