Today is Monday, March 2, the 61st day of 2009. There are 304 days left in the year.

Today's Highlight in History:

On March 2, 1939, Roman Catholic Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli was elected Pope on his 63rd birthday; he took the name Pius XII.

On this date:

In 1793, the first president of the Republic of Texas, Sam Houston, was born near Lexington, Va.

In 1836, the Republic of Texas formally declared its independence from Mexico.

In 1877, Republican Rutherford B. Hayes was declared the winner of the 1876 presidential election over Democrat Samuel J. Tilden, even though Tilden had won the popular vote.

In 1899, Mount Rainier National Park in Washington state was established.

In 1917, Puerto Ricans were granted U.S. citizenship as President Woodrow Wilson signed the Jones-Shafroth Act.

In 1939, the Massachusetts legislature voted to ratify the Bill of Rights, 147 years after the first 10 amendments to the U.S. Constitution had gone into effect. (Georgia and Connecticut soon followed.)

In 1943, the World War II Battle of the Bismarck Sea began; U.S. and Australian warplanes were able to inflict heavy damage on a Japanese convoy.

In 1958, a multinational expedition led by British explorer Vivian Fuchs completed the first overland crossing of Antarctica by way of the South Pole in 99 days.

In 1977, the U.S. House of Representatives adopted a strict code of ethics.

In 1989, representatives from the 12 European Community nations agreed to ban all production of CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons) by the end of the 20th century.

Ten years ago: Texas Gov. George W. Bush announced he was forming a presidential exploratory committee. Conservative commentator Pat Buchanan launched a third White House bid. Singer Dusty Springfield died at her home west of London at age 59.

Five years ago: A series of coordinated blasts in Iraq killed 181 people at shrines in Karbala and Baghdad as thousands of Shiite Muslim pilgrims gathered for a religious festival. John Kerry laid claim to the Democratic presidential nomination after his victories in Super Tuesday contests. Former WorldCom CEO Bernard Ebbers was charged with falsifying the books at the long-distance company; his chief financial officer, Scott Sullivan, pleaded guilty to fraud and agreed to testify against him. Marge Schott, the controversial former owner of the Cincinnati Reds, died at age 75. Academy Award-winning actress Mercedes McCambridge died in La Jolla, Calif., at age 87.

One year ago: Dmitry Medvedev, Vladimir Putin's hand-picked successor, scored a crushing victory in Russia's presidential election. Four adults and two children were slain in a shooting and stabbing rampage at a Memphis, Tenn., house; three children survived. Jessie Dotson, brother of one of the victims, is charged with six counts of first-degree murder and three counts of attempted murder.

Today's Birthdays: Actress Jennifer Jones is 90. Bluegrass singer-musician Doc Watson is 86. Actor John Cullum is 79. Author Tom Wolfe is 79. Former Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev is 78. Actress Barbara Luna is 70. Actor Jon Finch is 68. Author John Irving is 67. Singer Lou Reed is 67. Actress Cassie Yates is 58. Actress Laraine Newman is 57. Sen. Russell Feingold, D-Wis., is 56. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar is 54. Singer Jay Osmond is 54. Pop musician John Cowsill (The Cowsills) is 53. Tennis player Kevin Curren is 51. Country singer Larry Stewart (Restless Heart) is 50. Rock singer Jon Bon Jovi is 47. Blues singer-musician Alvin Youngblood Hart is 46. Actor Daniel Craig is 41. Rock musician Casey (Jimmie's Chicken Shack) is 33. Rock singer Chris Martin (Coldplay) is 32. Actress Heather McComb is 32. Actress Bryce Dallas Howard is 28. Football player Ben Roethlisberger is 27. Actor Robert Iler ("The Sopranos") is 24.

Thought for Today: "Just as we are often moved to merriment for no other reason than that the occasion calls for seriousness, so we are correspondingly serious when invited too freely to be amused." _ Agnes Repplier, American essayist (1858-1950).

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.