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Today in History — March 18

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

Today is Sunday, March 18, the 77th day of 2007. There are 288 days left in the year.

Today’s Highlight in History:

On March 18, 1937, some 300 people, mostly children, were killed in a gas explosion at a school in New London, Texas.

On this date:

In 1766, Britain repealed the Stamp Act of 1765.

In 1837, the 22nd and 24th president of the United States, Grover Cleveland, was born in Caldwell, N.J.

In 1922, Mohandas K. Gandhi was sentenced in India to six years’ imprisonment for civil disobedience. (He was released after serving two years.)

In 1940, Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini met at the Brenner Pass, where the Italian dictator agreed to join Germany’s war against France and Britain.

In 1959, President Eisenhower signed the Hawaii statehood bill. (Hawaii became a state on Aug. 21, 1959.)

In 1962, France and Algerian rebels agreed to a truce.

In 1965, the first spacewalk took place as Soviet cosmonaut Aleksei Leonov left his Voskhod 2 capsule, secured by a tether.

In 1974, most of the Arab oil-producing nations ended their embargo against the United States.

In 1977, Marien Ngouabi, the military president of the Republic of the Congo, was assassinated.

In 2001, John Phillips, who co-founded the Mamas and the Papas and wrote its biggest hits, died in Los Angeles at age 65.

Ten years ago: Bulldozers began clearing away rocks and earth for a Jewish housing project in disputed east Jerusalem, triggering Palestinian protests. Labor Secretary-designate Alexis Herman got a generally favorable reception from Democrats and Republicans alike at her Senate confirmation hearing.

Five years ago: Thirteen-year-old Brittanie Cecil, two days short of her 14th birthday, died two days after being hit in the head by a puck at a game between the host Columbus Blue Jackets and Calgary Flames; it was apparently the first such fan fatality in NHL history.

One year ago: Thousands of anti-war protesters took to the streets around the world, marking the third anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. Students and activists clashed with police in Paris as demonstrations against a government plan to loosen job protections spread across France. Former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic was laid to rest in his hometown of Pozarevac in Serbia-Montenegro.

Today’s Birthdays: Actor Peter Graves is 81. Composer John Kander (“Chicago”) is 80. Author John Updike is 75. Nobel peace laureate and former South African president F.W. de Klerk is 71. Country singer Charley Pride is 69. Actor Kevin Dobson is 64. Actor Brad Dourif is 57. Jazz musician Bill Frisell is 56. Actor Thomas Ian Griffith is 45. Singer James McMurtry is 45. Singer-actress Vanessa L. Williams is 44. Olympic gold medal speedskater Bonnie Blair is 43. Country musician Scott Saunders (Sons of the Desert) is 43. Rock musician Jerry Cantrell (Alice in Chains) is 41. Rock singer-musician Miki Berenyi is 40. Rapper-actress-talk show host Queen Latifah is 37. Actor-comedian Dane Cook is 35. Rock musician Stuart Zender is 33. Singer Devin Lima (LFO) is 30. Rock singer Adam Levine (Maroon 5) is 28.

Thought for Today: “It’s easy to be independent when you’ve got money. But to be independent when you haven’t got a thing — that’s the Lord’s test.” — Mahalia Jackson, American gospel singer (1911-1972).