updated 12/20/2006 12:00:55 AM ET 2006-12-20T05:00:55

Today’s Highlight in History:

On Dec. 20, 1803, the Louisiana Purchase was completed as ownership of the territory was formally transferred from France to the United States during ceremonies in New Orleans.

On this date:

In 1790, the first successful cotton mill in the United States began operating at Pawtucket, R.I.

In 1860, South Carolina became the first state to secede from the Union.

In 1864, Confederate forces evacuated Savannah, Ga., as Union Gen. William T. Sherman continued his “March to the Sea.”

In 1945, the Office of Price Administration announced the end of tire rationing, effective Jan. 1, 1946.

In 1946, the Frank Capra film “It’s A Wonderful Life,” starring James Stewart and Donna Reed, had a preview showing for charity at New York’s Globe Theatre, a day before its “official” world premiere.

In 1968, author John Steinbeck died in New York at age 66.

In 1976, Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley died at age 74.

In 1987, more than 4,300 people were killed when the Dona Paz, a Philippine passenger ship, collided with the tanker Vector off Mindoro island.

In 1989, the United States launched Operation Just Cause, sending troops into Panama to topple the government of General Manuel Noriega.

In 1999, the Vermont Supreme Court ruled that homosexual couples were entitled to the same benefits and protections as wedded couples.

Ten years ago: President Clinton selected Federico Pena for energy secretary, Rodney Slater for transportation secretary, Andrew Cuomo for housing secretary and Alexis Herman for labor secretary. A judge in Orange County, Calif., gave O.J. Simpson full custody of his young children. Astronomer Carl Sagan died in Seattle at age 62.

Five years ago: Argentine President Fernando de la Rua resigned, hours after his economy minister, following two days of anti-government unrest that left about two dozen people dead and more than 200 injured. The U.N. Security Council authorized a multinational force for Afghanistan. Microsoft admitted its new Windows XP operating system software was vulnerable to hacking. Comedian Foster Brooks, known for his “Lovable Lush” fake drunk act, died in Encino, Calif., at age 89.

One year ago: New York City transit workers began a strike that shut down subways and buses for three days. A federal judge ruled that “intelligent design” could not be mentioned in biology classes in a Pennsylvania public school district.

Today’s Birthdays: Actress Audrey Totter is 89. Comedian Charlie Callas is 79. Actor John Hillerman is 74. Rock musician Peter Criss is 61. Psychic/illusionist Uri Geller is 60. Singer Alan Parsons is

57. Actress Jenny Agutter is 54. Actor Michael Badalucco is 52. Actress Blanche Baker is 50. Rock singer Billy Bragg is 49. Rock singer-musician Mike Watt (The Secondmen, Minutemen, fIREHOSE) is

49. Country singer Kris Tyler is 42. Rock singer Chris Robinson is

40. Actress Nicole deBoer is 36. Actor Jonah Hill is 23. Singer JoJo is 16.

Thought for Today: “We are all citizens of history.” — Clifton Fadiman, American author, editor and radio personality (1904-1999).

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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