NHL star Maurice Richard suspended; riot ensues

On March 16, 1955, NHL president Clarence Campbell suspends Montreal Canadiens star Maurice “Rocket” Richard for the remainder of the regular season and playoffs after he attacks an opponent with his stick and slugs a referee in the head. Riots erupt the following day at the Red Wings-Canadiens game in Montreal, causing the game to be cut short after items are thrown at Campbell and a tear gas bomb goes off in the arena.

Three days earlier, Richard—who was leading the NHL with 74 points—was struck by a high stick from Boston Bruins defensemen Hal Laycoe. Laycoe was penalized, but Richard attacked him with his stick and punched referee Cliff Thompson “with two hard blows to the face” when he attempted to intervene, according to The Ottawa Citizen.

“Whether this type of conduct is the product of temperamental instability or willful defiance of authority in the games does not matter,” Campbell said of the suspension. “It is the type of conduct which cannot be tolerated by any player—star or otherwise.”

Despite warnings that his attendance at the Red Wings-Canadiens game on March 17, 1955, could be problematic, Campbell stood in defiance in the stands at the game. From the drop of the puck, fans threw everything from shoes to food at the president. One fan even eluded security long enough to shake Campbell’s hand, then slap him in the face.  

A tear gas bomb was set off in one of the exits, causing fans to hurriedly leave. A riot in the streets ensued—an incident that would become known as the “Richard Riot.”  Sixteen people were arrested for rioting (each fined $25), 33 people were injured (including eight policemen) and property damage totaled roughly $100,000. The next day, Richard appeared on television to encourage fans to behave.

“I will take my punishment and come back next year to help the club and the younger players to win the [Stanley] Cup,” he said. Montreal won the Stanley Cup the next season.

Richard, who died in 2000, was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1965.


Bear Stearns collapses, sold to J.P. Morgan Chase

Month Day
March 16

On March 16, 2008, Bear Stearns, the 85-year-old investment bank, narrowly avoids bankruptcy by its sale to J.P. Morgan Chase and Co. at the shockingly low price of $2 per share.

With a stock market capitalization of $20 billion in early 2007, Bear Stearns seemed to be riding high. But its increasing involvement in the hedge-fund business, particularly with risky mortgage-backed securities, paved the way for it to become one of the earliest casualties of the subprime mortgage crisis that led to the Great Recession.

Housing boom goes bust

In the early to mid-2000s, as home prices in the United States rose, lenders began giving mortgages to borrowers whose poor credit would otherwise have prohibited them from obtaining a mortgage.

With the housing market booming, Bear Stearns and other investment banks became heavily involved in selling complex securities based on these subprime mortgages, with little regard for how risky they would turn out to be.

After peaking in mid-2006, housing prices began to decline rapidly, and many of these subprime borrowers began defaulting on their mortgages. Mortgage originators started feeling the effects of the crisis first: New Century Financial, which specialized in subprime mortgages, declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy in April 2007.

In June, Bear Stearns was forced to pay some $3.2 billion to bail out the High-Grade Structured-Credit Strategies Fund, which specialized in risky investments like collateralized debt obligations (CDOs) and mortgage-backed securities (MBSs).

The following month, the firm revealed that the High-Grade fund and another related hedge fund had lost nearly all of their value due to the steep decline in the subprime mortgage market.

Bear Stearns collapses 

For the fourth quarter of 2007, Bear recorded a loss for the first time in some 80 years, and CEO James Cayne was forced to step down; Alan Schwartz replaced him in January 2008.

Barely two months later, the collapse of Bear Stearns unfolded swiftly over the course of a few days. It began on Tuesday, March 11, when the Federal Reserve announced a $50 billion lending facility to help struggling financial institutions. That same day, the rating agency Moody’s downgraded many of Bear’s mortgage-backed securities to B and C levels (or “junk bonds”).

Unlike a regular bank, which can use cash from depositors to fund its operations, an investment bank like Bear Stearns often relied on short-term (even overnight) funding deals known as repurchase agreements, or “repos.”

In this type of deal, Bear offered bundles of securities to another firm or an investor (such as a hedge fund) in exchange for cash, which it would then use to finance its operations for a brief period of time.

Relying on repos—which all Wall Street investment banks did to some degree—meant that any loss of confidence in a firm’s reputation could lead investors to pull crucial funding at any time, putting the firm’s future in immediate jeopardy.

Taken together, Moody’s downgrade and the Fed’s announcement (which was seen as an anticipation of Bear’s failure) destroyed investors’ confidence in the firm, leading them to pull out their investments and refuse to enter into any more repo agreements.

By Thursday evening, March 13, Bear had less than $3 billion on hand, not enough to open its doors for business the following day.

J.P. Morgan Chase cuts a deal

Schwartz called on J.P. Morgan Chase, which managed the firm’s cash, to ask for an emergency loan, and told the Federal Reserve chairman, Timothy Geithner, that his firm would go bankrupt if the loan didn’t come through.

The Fed agreed to provide an emergency loan, through J.P. Morgan, of an unspecified amount to keep Bear afloat. But soon after the New York Stock Exchange opened on Friday, March 14, Bear’s stock price began plummeting.

By Saturday, J.P. Morgan Chase concluded that Bear Stearns was worth only $236 million. Desperately seeking a solution that would stop Bear’s failure from spreading to other over-leveraged banks (such as Merrill Lynch, Lehman Brothers and Citigroup) the Federal Reserve called its first emergency weekend meeting in 30 years.

On Sunday evening, March 16, Bear’s board of directors agreed to sell the firm to J.P. Morgan Chase for $2 per share—a 93 percent discount from Bear’s closing stock price on Friday. (Subsequent negotiations pushed the final price up to $10 per share.) The Fed lent J.P. Morgan Chase up to $30 billion to make the purchase.

Harbinger of the Recession 

The unexpected downfall of the nation’s fifth largest investment bank, founded in 1923, shocked the financial world and sent global markets tumbling.

As it turned out, Bear Stearns would be only the first in a string of financial firms brought low by the combination of income losses and diminishing confidence in the market.

In September 2008, Bank of America Corp. quickly purchased the struggling Merrill Lynch, while venerable Lehman Brothers collapsed into bankruptcy, a stunning failure that would kick off an international banking crisis and drive the nation into the biggest economic meltdown since the Great Depression.

READ MORE: The 2008 Crash: What Happened to All That Money?


Kate Kelly, Street Fighters: The Last 72 Hours of Bear Stearns, the Toughest Firm on Wall Street (New York: Portfolio, 2009).
William D. Cohan, House of Cards: A Tale of Hubris and Wretched Excess on Wall Street (New York: Doubleday, 2009).
A Timeline of Bear Stearns’ Downfall, The Motley Fool, March 15, 2013.
“How subprime killed Bear Stearns,” CNN, March 17, 2008.
Timeline: A dozen key dates in the demise of Bear Stearns, Reuters, March 17, 2008.


American journalist Terry Anderson kidnapped

Month Day
March 16

In Beirut, Lebanon, Islamic militants kidnap American journalist Terry Anderson and take him to the southern suburbs of the war-torn city, where other Western hostages are being held in scattered dungeons under ruined buildings. Before his abduction, Anderson covered the Lebanese Civil War for The Associated Press (AP) and also served as the AP’s Beirut bureau chief.

On December 4, 1991, Anderson’s Hezbollah captors finally released him after 2,455 days. He was the last and longest-held American hostage in Lebanon. Although his seven-year ordeal was the longest of the 92 foreigners abducted during Lebanon’s civil war, he was saved the fate of 11 hostages who died or were believed murdered. Anderson spent his entire captivity blindfolded and was released when the 16-year civil war came to an end.

In 1993, Anderson published Den of Lions, a memoir of his time in captivity. In 2002, he won a lawsuit against the Iranian government and was granted a multi-million dollar settlement. The next year, Anderson ran for the Ohio Senate as a Democrat, but was defeated.

READ MORE: Hostage Terry Anderson freed in Lebanon


First liquid-fueled rocket

Month Day
March 16

The first man to give hope to dreams of space travel is American Robert H. Goddard, who successfully launches the world’s first liquid-fueled rocket at Auburn, Massachusetts, on March 16, 1926. The rocket traveled for 2.5 seconds at a speed of about 60 mph, reaching an altitude of 41 feet and landing 184 feet away. The rocket was 10 feet tall, constructed out of thin pipes, and was fueled by liquid oxygen and gasoline.

The Chinese developed the first military rockets in the early 13th century using gunpowder and probably built firework rockets at an earlier date. Gunpowder-propelled military rockets appeared in Europe sometime in the 13th century, and in the 19th century British engineers made several important advances in early rocket science. In 1903, an obscure Russian inventor named Konstantin E. Tsiolkovsky published a treatise on the theoretical problems of using rocket engines in space, but it was not until Robert Goddard’s work in the 1920s that anyone began to build the modern, liquid-fueled type of rocket that by the early 1960s would be launching humans into space.

Goddard, born in Worcester, Massachusetts, in 1882, became fascinated with the idea of space travel after reading the H.G. Wells’ science fiction novel War of the Worlds in 1898. He began building gunpowder rockets in 1907 while a student at the Worcester Polytechnic Institute and continued his rocket experiments as a physics doctoral student and then physics professor at Clark University. He was the first to prove that rockets can propel in an airless vacuum-like space and was also the first to explore mathematically the energy and thrust potential of various fuels, including liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen. He received U.S. patents for his concepts of a multistage rocket and a liquid-fueled rocket, and secured grants from the Smithsonian Institute to continue his research.

In 1919, his classic treatise A Method of Reaching Extreme Altitudes was published by the Smithsonian. The work outlined his mathematical theories of rocket propulsion and proposed the future launching of an unmanned rocket to the moon. The press picked up on Goddard’s moon-rocket proposal and for the most part ridiculed the scientist’s innovative ideas. In January 1920, The New York Times printed an editorial declaring that Dr. Goddard “seems to lack the knowledge ladled out daily in high schools” because he thought that rocket thrust would be effective beyond the earth’s atmosphere. (Three days before the first Apollo lunar-landing mission in July 1969, the Times printed a correction to this editorial.)

In December 1925, Goddard tested a liquid-fueled rocket in the physics building at Clark University. He wrote that the rocket, which was secured in a static rack, “operated satisfactorily and lifted its own weight.” On March 16, 1926, Goddard accomplished the world’s first launching of a liquid-fueled rocket from his Aunt Effie’s farm in Auburn.

Goddard continued his innovative rocket work until his death in 1945. His work was recognized by the aviator Charles A. Lindbergh, who helped secure him a grant from the Guggenheim Fund for the Promotion of Aeronautics. Using these funds, Goddard set up a testing ground in Roswell, New Mexico, which operated from 1930 until 1942. During his tenure there, he made 31 successful flights, including one of a rocket that reached 1.7 miles off the ground in 22.3 seconds. Meanwhile, while Goddard conducted his limited tests without official U.S. support, Germany took the initiative in rocket development and by September 1944 was launching its V-2 guided missiles against Britain to devastating effect. During the war, Goddard worked in developing a jet-thrust booster for a U.S. Navy seaplane. He would not live to see the major advances in rocketry in the 1950s and ’60s that would make his dreams of space travel a reality. NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, is named in his honor.


Vietnamese villagers killed by U.S. soldiers in My Lai Massacre

Month Day
March 16

On March 16, 1968, a platoon of American soldiers brutally kills as many as 500 unarmed civilians at My Lai, one of a cluster of small villages located near the northern coast of South Vietnam. The crime, which was kept secret for nearly two years, later became known as the My Lai Massacre

In March 1968, a platoon of soldiers from Charlie Company received word that Viet Cong guerrillas had taken cover in the Quang Ngai village of Son My. The platoon entered one of the village’s four hamlets, My Lai 4, on a search-and-destroy mission on the morning of March 16. Instead of guerrilla fighters, they found unarmed villagers, most of them women, children and old men.

READ MORE: How the Army’s Cover-Up Made the My Lai Massacre Even Worse

The soldiers had been advised before the attack by army command that all who were found in My Lai could be considered VC or active VC sympathizers, and were told to destroy the village. They acted with extraordinary brutality, raping and torturing villagers before killing them and dragging dozens of people, including young children and babies, into a ditch and executing them with automatic weapons. The massacre reportedly ended when an Army helicopter pilot, Warrant Officer Hugh Thompson, landed his aircraft between the soldiers and the retreating villagers and threatened to open fire if they continued their attacks.

The events at My Lai were covered up by high-ranking army officers until investigative journalist Seymour Hersh broke the story. Soon, My Lai was front-page news and an international scandal.

READ MORE: How the Vietnam War Ratcheted Up Under 5 US Presidents


U.S. Military Academy established

Month Day
March 16

The United States Military Academy–the first military school in the United States–is founded by Congress for the purpose of educating and training young men in the theory and practice of military science. Located at West Point, New York, the U.S. Military Academy is often simply known as West Point.

Located on the high west bank of New York’s Hudson River, West Point was the site of a Revolutionary-era fort built to protect the Hudson River Valley from British attack. In 1780, Patriot General Benedict Arnold, the commander of the fort, agreed to surrender West Point to the British in exchange for 6,000 pounds. However, the plot was uncovered before it fell into British hands, and Arnold fled to the British for protection.

Ten years after the establishment of the U.S. Military Academy in 1802, the growing threat of another war with Great Britain resulted in congressional action to expand the academy’s facilities and increase the West Point corps. Beginning in 1817, the U.S. Military Academy was reorganized by superintendent Sylvanus Thayer–later known as the “father of West Point”–and the school became one of the nation’s finest sources of civil engineers. During the Mexican-American War, West Point graduates filled the leading ranks of the victorious U.S. forces, and with the outbreak of the Civil War former West Point classmates regretfully lined up against one another in the defense of their native states.

In 1870, the first African-American cadet was admitted into the U.S. Military Academy, and in 1976, the first female cadets. The academy is now under the general direction and supervision of the department of the U.S. Army and has an enrollment of more than 4,000 students.


Judge Roy Bean dies

Month Day
March 16

Roy Bean, the self-proclaimed “law west of the Pecos,” dies in Langtry, Texas.

A saloonkeeper and adventurer, Bean’s claim to fame rested on the often humorous and sometimes-bizarre rulings he meted out as a justice of the peace in western Texas during the late 19th century. By then, Bean was in his 50s and had already lived a life full of rough adventures.

Born in Kentucky some time during the 1820s, Bean began getting into trouble at an early age. He left home in 1847 with his brother Sam and lived a rogue’s life in Mexico until he shot a man in a barroom fight and had to flee. He next turned up in San Diego, where he enjoyed playing the dashing caballero. Again he shot a man during a quarrel and was forced to leave town quickly. He fell into the same old habits in Los Angeles, eventually killing a Mexican officer in a duel over a woman. Angry friends of the officer hanged Bean in revenge, but luckily, the rope stretched and Bean managed to stay alive until the woman he had fought for arrived to cut him down. Bearing rope scars on his neck that remained throughout his life, Bean left California to take up a less risky life in New Mexico and Texas.

For about 16 years, Bean lived a prosperous and relatively legitimate life as a San Antonio businessman. In 1882, he moved to southwest Texas, where he built his famous saloon, the Jersey Lilly, and founded the hamlet of Langtry. Saloon and town alike were named for the famous English actress, Lillie Langtry. Bean had never met Langtry, but he had developed an abiding affection for the beautiful actress after seeing a drawing of her in an illustrated magazine. For the rest of his life, he avidly followed Langtry’s career in theatre magazines.

Before founding Langtry, Bean had also secured an appointment as a justice of the peace and notary public. He knew little about the law or proper court procedures, but residents appreciated and largely accepted his common sense verdicts in the sparsely populated country of West Texas.

Bean was often deliberately humorous or bizarre in his rulings, once fining a dead man $40 for carrying a concealed weapon. He threatened one lawyer with hanging for using profane language when the hapless man referred to the “habeas corpus” of his client. Less amusing was Bean’s decision to free a man accused of killing a Chinese rail worker on the grounds that Bean knew of no law making it a crime “to kill a Chinaman.”

By the 1890s, reports of Bean’s curmudgeonly rulings had made him nationally famous. Travelers on the train passing through Langtry often made a point of stopping to visit the ramshackle saloon, where a sign proudly proclaimed Bean to be the “Law West of the Pecos.”

Bean fell ill during a visit to San Antonio. He returned to Langtry, where he died on March 16, 1903. Lillie Langtry, the object of Bean’s devoted adoration, visited the village named in her honor only 10 months after Bean died.


Motown soul singer Tammi Terrell dies

Month Day
March 16

Over a span of just 12 months beginning in April 1967, the duo of Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell enjoyed a string of four straight hits with some of the greatest love songs ever recorded at Motown Records. Sadly, only the first two of those four hits were released while Tammi Terrell was still well enough to perform them. In October 1967, just six months after the release of the now-classic “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” Terrell collapsed onstage during a live performance at Virginia’s Hampden-Sydney College. Two-and-a-half years later, on March 16, 1970, Tammi Terrell died of complications from the malignant brain tumor that caused her 1967 collapse.

Terrell’s illness was at first downplayed by the Motown Records publicity machine while new material by the duo of Gaye and Terrell was still being released. Many of the singles released under their names were created by laying Marvin Gaye’s vocals over existing recordings of Terrell made prior to her illness. Gaye scored one of his biggest solo hits ever during this period with “I Heard It Through the Grapevine,” but following Terrell’s death in 1970, he stopped performing live for the next three years.


“The Scarlet Letter” is published

Month Day
March 16

Nathaniel Hawthorne’s story of adultery and betrayal in colonial America, The Scarlet Letter, is published.

Hawthorne was born in Salem, Massachusetts, in 1804. Although the infamous Salem witch trials had taken place more than 100 years earlier, the events still hung over the town and made a lasting impression on the young Hawthorne. Witchcraft figured in several of his works, including Young Goodman Brown (1835) and The House of the Seven Gables (1851), in which a house is cursed by a wizard condemned by the witch trials.

After attending Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine, Hawthorne returned to Salem, where he began his career as a writer. He self-published his first book, Fanshawe (1828), but tried to destroy all copies shortly after publication. He later wrote several books of short stories, including Twice Told Tales (1837). In 1841, he tried his hand at communal living at the agricultural cooperative Brook Farm but came away highly disillusioned by the experience, which he fictionalized in his novel The Blithedale Romance (1852).

Hawthorne married Sophia Peabody in 1842, having at last earned enough money from his writing to start a family. The two lived in a house called the Old Manse, in Concord, Massachusetts, and socialized with Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, and Branson Alcott, father of writer Louisa May Alcott.

Plagued by financial difficulties as his family grew, he took a job in 1845 at Salem’s custom house, where he worked for three years. After leaving the job, he spent several months writing The Scarlet Letter, which made him famous.

In 1853, Hawthorne’s old college friend, President Franklin Pierce, appointed him American consul to England, and the family moved to England, where they lived for three years. Hawthorne died in Plymouth, New Hampshire, in 1864.


Actor Robert Blake acquitted of wife’s murder

Month Day
March 16

On March 16, 2005, after a three-month-long criminal trial in Los Angeles Superior Court, a jury acquits Robert Blake, star of the 1970s television detective show Baretta, of the murder of his 44-year-old wife, Bonny Lee Bakley.

Blake, who was born Mickey Gubitosi in 1933 in New Jersey, made his movie debut at the age of six, in MGM’s 1939 movie Bridal Suite; the studio soon featured him in its Our Gang series of short films. After changing his name to Robert Blake, he starred in the 1960 gangster movie The Purple Gang and numerous other films. In 1967, Blake memorably portrayed Perry Smith, one of two real-life murderers at the center of Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood, when the book was adapted for the big screen. As an actor, Blake was best known for his Emmy-winning work as the street-smart plainclothes policeman Tony Baretta in the ABC series Baretta. The show ran from 1975 to 1978, and Blake won an Emmy Award for Best Actor in a Drama Series at the end of its first season.

During his criminal trial, Blake’s defense team portrayed the aging actor as a rather pathetic figure and argued that Bakley had a pattern of sending letters and nude photos of herself to famous men and had trapped Blake into marrying her by becoming pregnant. The couple’s daughter, Rose, was born in June 2000, and though Bakley initially claimed that the child was fathered by Christian Brando, son of the celebrated actor Marlon Brando, a paternity test proved the baby was Blake’s. Blake and Bakley married that November. Their brief, unhappy union lasted until May 4, 2001, when Bakley was shot to death as she sat in a car outside a Los Angeles restaurant.

Blake was arrested for the murder, and the prosecution produced two former stunt doubles who claimed the actor had recruited them to kill his wife. During cross-examination, the stuntmen were revealed to be cocaine and methamphetamine users. In their acquittal of Blake, the jury made it clear they didn’t believe the stuntmen’s statements, and also concluded that the prosecution had failed to place the murder weapon in Blake’s hands.

In November 2005, eight months after the criminal trial ended, Robert Blake was found guilty in a civil trial of “intentionally” causing Bonny Lee Bakley’s death; he was ordered to pay $30 million to Bakley’s children. Rose remained in the care of Blake’s eldest daughter, Delinah. Though he did not testify in the criminal trial, Blake did take the stand during his civil trial to deny the accusations.