This Day in History: Feb. 29

On this day, Feb. 29, Leap Day …

2004: “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” wins a record-tying 11 Academy Awards, including best picture; Sean Penn wins for best actor in “Mystic River” and Charlize Theron wins best actress for her portrayal of serial killer Aileen Wuornos in “Monster.”

Also on this day:

  • 1504: Christopher Columbus, stranded in Jamaica during his fourth voyage to the West, uses a correctly predicted lunar eclipse to frighten hostile natives into providing food for his crew.
  • 1796: President George Washington proclaims Jay’s Treaty, which settles some outstanding differences with Britain, in effect.
  • 1904: President Theodore Roosevelt appoints a seven-member commission to facilitate the completion of the Panama Canal.
  • 1916: Entertainer and TV personality Dinah Shore is born Frances Rose Shore in Winchester, Tenn. (Shore would claim March 1, 1917 as her birthdate.)
  • 1936: President Franklin D. Roosevelt signs a second Neutrality Act as he appeals to American businesses not to increase exports to belligerent nations.
  • 1940: “Gone with the Wind” wins eight Academy Awards, including best picture; Hattie McDaniel wins for best supporting actress, becoming the first African-American honored with an Oscar.
  • 1960: The first Playboy Club, featuring waitresses clad in “bunny” outfits, opens in Chicago.
  • 1968:  President Lyndon B. Johnson’s National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders (also known as the Kerner Commission) warns that racism is causing America to move “toward two societies, one black, one white – separate and unequal.”
  • 1968: The discovery of a “pulsar” -- a star which emits regular radio waves --  is announced by Dr. Jocelyn Bell Burnell in Cambridge, England.
  • 1980: Yigal Allon, former foreign minister of Israel who played an important role in the Jewish state’s fight for independence, dies at age 61.
  • 1984: Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau (father of current Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau) announces he is stepping down after more than 15 combined years in power.
  • 1996: Daniel Green is convicted in Lumberton, N.C., of murdering James R. Jordan, the father of basketball legend Michael Jordan, during a 1993 roadside holdup. (Green and an accomplice, Larry Martin Demery, would be sentenced to life in prison.)
  • 2004:  Facing rebellion, Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide resigns and is forced into exile in the Central African Republic. (Aristide would return to Haiti in March 2011.) 
  • 2008: At a campaign event in Houston, Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama accuses rival Hillary Rodham Clinton of trying to “play on people’s fears to scare up votes” with a TV ad showing sleeping children and asking who would be more qualified to answer a national security emergency call at 3 a.m.
  • 2012: Davy Jones, the heartthrob singer of the made-for-TV rock band The Monkees, died in Stuart, Fla. at age 66.