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Today in History — March 31

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

Today is Saturday, March 31, the 90th day of 2007. There are 275 days left in the year.

Today’s Highlight in History:

On March 31, 1889, French engineer Alexandre Gustave Eiffel unfurled the French tricolor from atop the Eiffel Tower, officially marking its completion.

On this date:

In 1880, Wabash, Ind., became the first town in the world to be illuminated by electrical lighting.

In 1917, the U.S. took possession of the Virgin Islands from Denmark.

In 1933, Congress approved, and President Roosevelt signed, the Emergency Conservation Work Act, which created the Civilian Conservation Corps.

In 1943, the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical “Oklahoma!” opened on Broadway.

In 1945, the Tennessee Williams play “The Glass Menagerie” opened on Broadway.

In 1949, Newfoundland entered confederation as Canada’s 10th province.

In 1957, the original version of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Cinderella,” starring Julie Andrews, aired live in color on CBS.

In 1968, President Johnson stunned the country by announcing he would not seek another term in office.

In 1976, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that Karen Ann Quinlan, who was in a persistent vegetative state, could be disconnected from her respirator. (Quinlan, who remained unconscious, died in 1985.)

In 2005, Terri Schiavo, 41, died at a hospice in Pinellas Park, Fla., 13 days after her feeding tube was removed in a wrenching right-to-die dispute.

Ten years ago: Jury selection began in Denver in the trial of accused Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh. The Supreme Court ruled the government can force cable television systems to carry local broadcast stations.

Five years ago: Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon vowed to smash Palestinian militants in a broadcast speech that came the same day as a suicide bombing in Haifa that killed 15 Israelis. Pope John Paul II used his Easter message to call for an end to violence in the Holy Land. Connecticut beat Oklahoma 82-70 to conclude its second unbeaten season with a third women’s national championship.

One year ago: Auto parts supplier Delphi Corp. unveiled a broad restructuring plan that would cut 8,500 salaried jobs and shut or sell a third of its plants worldwide. Seventy deaths were reported after three strong earthquakes struck western Iran. A Brazilian airliner crashed, killing all 19 people on board.

Today’s Birthdays: Actress Peggy Rea is 86. Actor William Daniels is 80. Hockey Hall-of-Famer Gordie Howe is 79. Actor Richard Chamberlain is 73. Actress Shirley Jones is 73. Country singer-songwriter John D. Loudermilk is 73. Musician Herb Alpert is

72. Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) is 67. Actor Christopher Walken is 64. Comedian Gabe Kaplan is 62. Former Vice President Al Gore is

59. David Eisenhower is 59. Actress Rhea Perlman is 59. Actor Ed Marinaro is 57. Rock musician Angus Young (AC/DC) is 52. Actor Marc McClure is 50. Actor William McNamara is 42. Actor Ewan McGregor is 36.

Thought for Today: “The world is a funny paper read backwards. And that way it isn’t so funny.” — Tennessee Williams, American playwright (1911-1983).