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Today in History - Dec. 26

Celebrity birthdays, highlights in history, plus more facts about this day
/ Source: The Associated Press

Today’s Highlight in History:

On Dec. 26, 2004, more than 200,000 people, mostly in southern Asia, were killed by a tsunami triggered by the world’s most powerful earthquake in 40 years beneath the Indian Ocean.

On this date:

In 1776, the British suffered a major defeat in the Battle of Trenton during the Revolutionary War.

In 1799, former President George Washington was eulogized by Col. Henry Lee as “first in war, first in peace and first in the hearts of his countrymen.”

In 1917, during World War I, President Wilson announced the U.S. government would take over operation of the nation’s railroads.

In 1931, the Pulitzer Prize-winning musical play “Of Thee I Sing” opened on Broadway.

In 1941, Winston Churchill became the first British prime minister to address a joint meeting of the U.S. Congress.

In 1944, during the World War II Battle of the Bulge, the embattled U.S. 101st Airborne Division in Bastogne, Belgium, was relieved by units of the Fourth Armored Division.

In 1944, Tennessee Williams’ play “The Glass Menagerie” was first performed publicly, at the Civic Theatre in Chicago.

In 1972, the 33rd president of the United States, Harry S. Truman, died in Kansas City, Miss.

In 1980, Iranian television footage was broadcast in the U.S., showing a dozen of the American hostages sending messages to their families.

In 2003, an earthquake struck the historic Iranian city of Bam, killing at least 26,000 people.

Ten years ago: Six-year-old beauty queen JonBenet Ramsey was found beaten and strangled in the basement of her family’s home in Boulder, Colo. (To date, the slaying remains unsolved.)

Five years ago: The Arabic TV station Al-Jazeera aired new videotaped excerpts of Osama bin Laden in which the al-Qaida leader condemned the U.S. as a nation that committed crimes against millions of Afghans. Hundreds of Iraqi Kurds, Afghans, Iranians and other refugees from a Red Cross center in France began two days of attempting to cross illegally into Britain through the Channel Tunnel, shutting down train traffic. Actor Sir Nigel Hawthorne died in Hertfordshire, England, at age 72.

One year ago: Survivors wept and prayed beside mass graves and at beachside memorials in Indonesia, marking one year since earthquake-churned walls of water crashed ashore in a dozen nations, sweeping away hundreds of thousands of lives. “Monday Night Football” ended an unprecedented 36-year run on ABC TV with a lackluster game, a 31-to-21 New England Patriots victory over the New York Jets. (The series switched to ESPN the following season.) Australia’s wealthiest man, media mogul Kerry Packer, died in Sydney at age 68.

Today’s Birthdays: Actor Richard Widmark is 92. Actor Donald Moffat is 76. Rhythm-and-blues singer Abdul “Duke” Fakir (The Four Tops) is 71. Record producer Phil Spector is 66. “America’s Most Wanted” host John Walsh is 61. Country musician Bob Carpenter (The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band) is 60. Baseball Hall of Fame catcher Carlton Fisk is 59. Former baseball player Chris Chambliss is 58. Rock musician James Kottak (The Scorpions) is 44. Country musician Brian Westrum (Sons of the Desert) is 44. Rock musician Lars Ulrich (Metallica) is 43. Actress Nadia Dajani is 41. Rock musician J is

39. Country singer Audrey Wiggins is 39. Rock musician Peter Klett (Candlebox) is 37. Actor Jared Leto is 35. Rock singer Chris Daughtry (“American Idol”) is 27.

Thought for Today: “Time is the longest distance between two places.” — From “The Glass Menagerie” by Tennessee Williams (1911-1983).