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Today in History — April 12

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

Today is Thursday, April 12, the 102nd day of 2007. There are 263 days left in the year.

Today’s Highlight in History:
On April 12, 1861, the American Civil War began as Confederate forces fired on Fort Sumter in South Carolina.

On this date:
In 1606, England’s King James I decreed the design of the original Union Flag, which combined the flags of England and Scotland.

In 1776, North Carolina’s Fourth Provincial Congress adopted the Halifax Resolves, which authorized the colony’s delegates to the Continental Congress to support independence from Britain.

In 1862, Union volunteers led by James J. Andrews stole a Confederate train near Marietta, Ga., but were later caught. (This episode inspired the classic Buster Keaton silent comedy “The General.”)

In 1877, the catcher’s mask was first used in a baseball game, by James Tyng of Harvard in a game against the Lynn Live Oaks.

In 1934, “Tender Is the Night,” by F. Scott Fitzgerald, was first published in book form by Charles Scribner’s Sons (it had been serialized in Scribner’s Magazine).

In 1945, President Franklin D. Roosevelt died of a cerebral hemorrhage in Warm Springs, Ga., at age 63; he was succeeded by Vice President Harry S. Truman.

In 1955, the Salk vaccine against polio was declared safe and effective.

In 1961, Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first man to fly in space, orbiting the earth once before making a safe landing.

In 1981, the space shuttle Columbia blasted off from Cape Canaveral on its first test flight.

In 1983, Chicagoans went to the polls to elect Harold Washington the city’s first black mayor.

Ten years ago: Undaunted by a cache of explosives found on his travel route, Pope John Paul II plunged into a peace mission to Sarajevo, wading into crowds and declaring, “Never again war.”

Five years ago: Boston’s Cardinal Bernard Law ignored growing demands for his resignation because of the sex scandal engulfing the church. (Law ended up resigning in December 2002.) Secretary of State Colin Powell’s trip to the Middle East was marred by a suicide bombing in Jerusalem that claimed six victims; the White House put on hold Powell’s scheduled meeting with Yasser Arafat. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez resigned under pressure from the country’s divided military. (However, he was returned to office two days later.)

One year ago: Jurors in the Zacarias Moussaoui trial listened to a recording of terrified shouts and cries in the cockpit as desperate passengers twice charged panicked hijackers during the final half hour of doomed United Flight 93 on Sept. 11. The Rev. William Sloane Coffin, a former Yale chaplain known for Vietnam-era peace activism, died in Strafford, Vt., at age 81. Indian movie star Raj Kumar died in Bangalore at age 77.

Today’s Birthdays: Country singer Ned Miller is 82. Actress Jane Withers is 81. Opera singer Montserrat Caballe is 74. Actor Charles Napier is 71. Jazz musician Herbie Hancock is 67. Actor Frank Bank (“Leave It to Beaver”) is 65. Rock singer John Kay (Steppenwolf) is 63. Actor Ed O’Neill is 61. Author Tom Clancy is 60. Actor Dan Lauria is 60. Talk show host David Letterman is 60. Author Scott Turow is 58. Singer David Cassidy is 57. Rhythm-and-blues singer JD Nicholas (The Commodores) is 55. Singer Pat Travers is 53. Actor Andy Garcia is 51. Movie director Walter Salles is 51. Country singer Vince Gill is 50. Actress Suzzanne Douglas is 50. Rock musician Will Sergeant (Echo & the Bunnymen) is 49. Rock singer Art Alexakis (Everclear) is 45. Country singer Deryl Dodd is 43. Folk-pop singer Amy Ray (Indigo Girls) is 43. Rock singer Nicholas Hexum (311) is 37. Actor Nicholas Brendon is 36. Actress Shannen Doherty is 36. Rock musician Guy Berryman (Coldplay) is 29. Actress Claire Danes is 28. Actress Jennifer Morrison is 28. Rock singer-musician Brendon Urie (Panic! at the Disco) is 20.

Thought for Today: “The world is quite right. It does not have to be consistent.” — Charlotte Perkins Gilman, American economist-feminist (1860-1935).