Aug. 20, 1308 – Pope Clement V pardoned Jacques de Molay, the last Grand Master of the Knights Templar, absolving him of charges of heresy.
Aug. 20, 1540 – The DeSoto Expedition departed the ancient Indian town of Coosa (Cosa, Coca), which was located on the east bank of Talladega Creek, 1.5 miles northeast of Childersburg in Talladega County, Ala. They arrived at the town on July 16, 1540.
Aug. 20, 1692 – In connection with the Salem witchcraft trials, Margaret Jacobs recanted the testimony that led to the execution of her grandfather, George Jacobs Sr., and George Burroughs.
Aug. 20, 1707 – The first Siege of Pensacola came to an end with the failure of the British to capture Pensacola, Florida.
Aug. 20, 1741 - Danish navigator Vitus Jonas Bering discovered Alaska.
Aug. 20, 1775 – The Spanish established the Presidio San Augustin del Tucson in the town that became Tucson, Arizona.
Aug. 20, 1794 – At the Battle of Fallen Timbers, General “Mad Anthony” Wayne proved that the fragile young American republic could counter a military threat when he put down Shawnee Chief Blue Jacket’s confederacy near present-day Toledo, Ohio, with the newly created 3,000-man strong Legion of the United States.
Aug. 20, 1800 – In an incident attributed to the Bermuda Triangle, the USS Pickering disappeared with a crew of 90 while en route to Guadeloupe in the West Indies from New Castle, Delaware.
Aug. 20, 1804 - Sergeant Charles Floyd died three months into the voyage of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, becoming the only member of the Corps of Discovery to die during the journey. Lewis read the funeral service, and the two captains concluded the ceremony by naming the nearby stream Floyds River and the hill Floyds Bluff. Based on the symptoms described by Lewis and Clark, modern physicians have concluded that Floyd was probably died of peritonitis caused by a ruptured appendix.
Aug. 20, 1824 – During his extended tour of the United States, the Marquis de Lafayette left New York City and made several stops on his way to Bridgeport, Conn., stopping in Harlem, New Rochelle, Byram Bridge and Putnam Hill in Greenwich, Stamford, Norwalk, Saugatuck (Westport) and Fairfield before reaching Bridgeport and staying at the Washington Hotel.
Aug. 20, 1832 – David Holmes passed away in Winchester, Va. at the age of 63. On June 5, 1815, as the Territorial Governor of Mississippi, Holmes would establish Monroe County by proclamation.
Aug. 20, 1833 - Benjamin Henry Harrison, the 23rd President of the United States, was born in North Bend, Ohio.
Aug. 20, 1847 – During the Mexican-American War, Mark B. Travis, a younger brother of William Barrett Travis who died at the Alamo, was said to have been wounded on this day at the Battle of Churubusco a few miles outside of Mexico City.
Aug. 20, 1858 – Charles Darwin first published his theory of evolution through natural selection in “The Journal of the Proceedings of the Linnean Society of London,” alongside Alfred Russel Wallace's same theory.
Aug. 20, 1861 – During the Civil War, skirmishes were fought at Lookout Station and Fish Lake, Mo.
Aug. 20, 1861 – During the Civil War, skirmishes were fought at Hawk’s Nest and Laurel Fork Creek, West Virginia.
Aug. 20, 1862 – During the Civil War, New York Tribune editor Horace Greeley's "The Prayer of Twenty Millions" was published in the New York Tribune, and the editorial called on U.S. President Abraham Lincoln to declare emancipation for all slaves in Union-held territory. Lincoln was already planning to emancipate slaves, but he did not admit it publicly until a month later with his preliminary Emancipation Proclamation.
Aug. 20, 1862 – During the Civil War, skirmishes were fought at Baton Rouge, Louisiana; at Pilot Knob, or Edgefield Junction, Tennessee; and at Raccoon Ford, Stevensburg, Brandy Station, Rappahannock Station and near Kelly’s Ford, Virginia.
Aug. 20, 1862 – During the Civil War, seven days of Federal operations began in Wayne, Stoddard and Dunklin Counties, Missouri.
Aug. 20, 1862 – During the Civil War, Confederate Major General Richard Taylor was assigned to the command of the District of West Louisiana.
Aug. 20, 1862 – During the Civil War, Sioux Indians unsuccessfully attacked Fort Ridley, Minnesota.
Aug. 20, 1863 – During the Civil War, an eight-day raid into Kansas by William Clarke Quantrill began.
Aug. 20, 1863 – During the Civil War, a 12-day Federal combined arms expedition originating from Vicksburg, Mississippi and ending at Monroe, Louisiana began.
Aug. 20, 1863 – During the Civil War, a skirmish was fought at Panola, Mississippi.
Aug. 20, 1863 – During the Civil War, the Federal bombardment of Fort Sumter, South Carolina continued.
Aug. 20, 1864 – During the Civil War, skirmishes were fought near Rocheport, Missouri; at Pine Bluff, Tennessee; at Berryville and at Opequon Creek, Virginia; and at Bulltown, West Virginia.
Aug. 20, 1864 – During the Civil War, Legareville, South Carolina was burned by Federal forces.
Aug. 20, 1866 - U.S. President Andrew Johnson formally declared that the American Civil War was over even though fighting had stopped months earlier.
Aug. 20, 1868 – The seven-acre Goldsmith and Frohlichstein extension was added to Magnolia Cemetery in Mobile, Ala., adjacent to the Jewish Rest section. The elevated and highly desirable plots in this section eventually became the resting place for both Jews and Gentiles, and came to contain some of the more elaborate sculptures and mausolea in the entire cemetery.
Aug. 20, 1879 – Between Monroeville and Perdue Hill, a posse made up of Jonathan I. Watson, W.C. Tucker and Dr. Henry Rankin arrested murder suspect Charles Roberts, who had escaped with four other men from the Monroe County Jail the day before. Roberts apparently had been trying to make his way back to his former home at Claiborne, Ala., but was found completely exhausted after having walked, apparently lost in the dark, all night. He was taken back to jail, put in an iron cage and placed in shackles and irons.
Aug. 20, 1882 – Tchaikovsky's “1812 Overture” debuted in Moscow, Russia.
Aug. 20, 1890 – Howard Phillips “H.P.” Lovecraft was born at 9 a.m. at his family home on Angell Street in Providence, Rhode Island. Lovecraft went on to become a writer of horror, fantasy, and science-fiction, which was known back in his day as simply "weird fiction." He introduced the Cthulhu Mythos, in which characters had encounters with powerful and horrendous prehistoric beings, as well as the Necronomicon, a fictional grimoire of magical and forbidden lore.
Aug. 20, 1908 – National Baseball Hall of Fame catcher and manager Al Lopez was born in Tampa, Fla. During his career, he played for the Brooklyn Robins/Dodgers, the Boston Bees, the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Cleveland Indians and he also managed the Indians and the Chicago White Sox. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1977.
Aug. 20, 1918 – Novelist Jacqueline Susann was born in Philadelphia, Pa. She is best remembered for her 1966 novel, “Valley of the Dolls.”
Aug. 20, 1920 – Professional football was born when seven men met to organize a professional football league at the Jordan and Hupmobile Auto Showroom in Canton, Ohio. The meeting led to the creation of the American Professional Football Conference, the forerunner of the National Football League.
Aug. 20, 1920 – The first commercial radio station, 8MK (now WWJ), began operations in Detroit, Mich.
Aug. 20, 1937 - Dixie Bibb Graves took her seat in the U.S. Senate to become Alabama's first female senator. Only the fourth woman to serve as a U.S. senator, Graves had been appointed by her husband, Gov. Bibb Graves, to succeed Hugo Black, who had been appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Aug. 20, 1938 – Lou Gehrig hit his 23rd career grand slam, a record that stood for 75 years until it was broken by Alex Rodriguez.
Aug. 20, 1940 – During World War II, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill made the fourth of his famous wartime speeches, containing the line "Never was so much owed by so many to so few." The Battle of Britain was raging, and he was referring to the small group of the Royal Air Force who had successfully held off the much larger Luftwaffe, the German air force.
Aug. 20, 1945 - Tommy Brown of the Brooklyn Dodgers became the youngest player to hit a home run in a Major League Baseball game. Brown was 17 years, 8 months and 14 days old.
Aug. 20, 1948 – Poet Heather McHugh was born in San Diego, Calif.
Aug. 20, 1949 - Cleveland’s Indians and Chicago’s White Sox played at Municipal Stadium in Cleveland before the largest crowd, 78,382 people, to see a nighttime Major League Baseball game.
Aug. 20, 1951 – Preseason practice was scheduled to begin at Evergreen High School under head coach Wendell Hart. All players were asked to meet at the Memorial Gym at 2 p.m., and the Aggies were scheduled to open the 1951 season on Sept. 14 against Millry in Evergreen, Ala.
Aug. 20, 1954 - President Eisenhower approved a National Security Council paper titled “Review of U.S. Policy in the Far East.” This paper supported Secretary of State Dulles’ view that the United States should support Diem, while encouraging him to broaden his government and establish more democratic institutions. Ultimately, however, Diem would refuse to make any meaningful concessions or institute any significant new reforms and U.S. support was withdrawn. Diem was subsequently assassinated during a coup by opposition generals on November 2, 1963.
Aug. 20, 1965 - Civil rights worker Jonathan Daniels, a white Episcopal seminary student from Keene, New Hampshire, was murdered by shotgun at point-blank range in Hayneville in Lowndes County, Ala. Special (and unpaid) deputy sheriff Tom Coleman, an ardent segregationist, admitted to the shooting, but was acquitted by an all-white jury six weeks later. It’s said that Daniels sacrificed his life for young black activist Ruby Sales whom he pushed out of the way of the blast.
Aug. 20, 1971 - General Duong Van Minh and Vice President Nguyen Cao Ky, fellow candidates for the October presidential election, accused incumbent President Nguyen Van Thieu of rigging the election and withdrew from the race. In the United States, the FBI began investigating journalist Daniel Schorr, who was targeted by the Nixon administration because of his critical reporting of the president’s handling of the situation in Vietnam.
Aug. 20, 1974 - In the wake of Nixon’s resignation, Congress reduced military aid to South Vietnam from $1 billion to $700 million. This was one of several actions that signaled the North Vietnamese that the United States was backing away from its commitment to South Vietnam.
Aug. 20, 1975 – As part of its Viking program, NASA launched the Viking 1 planetary probe toward Mars.
Aug. 20, 1975 – NFL defensive back and running back Elijah Williams was born in Milton, Fla. He went on to play for Milton High School, the University of Florida and the Atlanta Falcons.
Aug. 20, 1976 – Major League Baseball outfielder Gene Kingsale was born in Solito, Aruba. He went on to play for the Baltimore Orioles, the Seattle Mariners, the San Diego Padres and the Detroit Tigers.
Aug. 20, 1976 – Actress, producer and screenwriter Kristen Miller was born in Manhattan Beach, Calif.
Aug. 20, 1977 – Cropduster Gary Earl Geck, 26, of Castleberry, Ala. was killed in plane crash in a wooded area on the Appleton Road in the southwestern section of Conecuh County.
Aug. 20, 1977 - Voyager 2 was launched by the United States. The spacecraft was carrying a 12-inch copper phonograph record containing greetings in dozens of languages, samples of music and sounds of nature.
Aug. 20, 1988 – During the Iran–Iraq War, a ceasefire was agreed to after almost eight years of war.
Aug. 20, 1994 – Chris McCutcheon, 17, of Evergreen, Ala. was critically injured when the 1993 Honda Prelude he was driving collided with a northbound CSX train around 10:15 a.m. at the railroad cross near the Old Depot in downtown Evergreen.
Aug. 20, 1997 - Alabama Governor Fob James joined the mayors of Montgomery and Georgina, Ala. in the Alabama State Capitol to dedicate a 50-mile stretch of Interstate 65 to the memory of Hank Williams. The section of roadway was renamed the "Hank Williams Memorial Lost Highway."
Aug. 20, 1998 - The U.N. Security Council extended trade sanctions against Iraq for blocking arms inspections.
Aug. 20, 2002 – A group of Iraqis opposed to the regime of Saddam Hussein took over the Iraqi Embassy in Berlin, Germany for five hours before releasing their hostages and surrendering.
Aug. 20, 2005 - Thomas Herrion of the San Francisco 49ers collapsed and died after a preseason game in Denver.
Aug. 20, 2008 – Beatrice, Ala. native and NFL player Clarence “Butch” Edmund Avinger passed away at the age of 79 in Birmingham. Avinger played quarterback at Alabama and was a first-round pick (ninth overall) of the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 1951 Draft. He would debut in the NFL with the New York Giants in 1953 and played a total of 12 pro games.
Aug. 20, 2008 – Pro Football Hall of Fame left guard Gene Upshaw died at the age of 63 in Lake Tahoe, Calif. During his career, he played for Texas A&M-Kingsville and the Oakland Raiders. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1987.
Aug. 20, 2010 - A federal grand jury indicted former baseball player Roger Clemens for lying to the U.S. Congress about steroid use. The trial ended in a mistrial.