This Day in History: Jan. 17

Beloved Hollywood star Betty White is born; Popeye the Sailor makes his debut

On this day, Jan. 17 ...

1922: Betty White, star of “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” "The Golden Girls," and “Hot in Cleveland,” is born in Oak Park, Ill. 

Also on this day: 

  • 1806: Thomas Jefferson’s daughter, Martha, gives birth to James Madison Randolph, the first child born in the White House.
  • 1917: Denmark cedes the Virgin Islands to the United States for $25 million.
Popeye The Sailor Meets Sindbad TheSailor USA 1936 (Photo by Getty Images)

Popeye The Sailor Meets Sindbad TheSailor USA 1936 (Photo by Getty Images)

  • 1929: Popeye the Sailor makes his debut in the “Thimble Theatre” comic strip.
  • 1945: Soviet and Polish forces liberate Warsaw during World War II; Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg, credited with saving tens of thousands of Jews, disappears in Hungary while in Soviet custody.
  • 1961: President Dwight D. Eisenhower delivers his farewell address in which he warns against “the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex.”
  • 1977: Convicted murderer Gary Gilmore is shot by a firing squad at Utah State Prison in the first U.S. execution in a decade.
  • 1984: The U.S. Supreme Court, in Sony Corp. of America v. Universal City Studios, Inc., rules 5-4 that the use of home video cassette recorders to tape television programs for private viewing does not violate federal copyright laws.
  • 1995: More than 6,000 people are killed when an earthquake with a magnitude of 7.2 devastates the city of Kobe, Japan.
  • 1996: Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman and nine followers are handed long prison sentences for plotting to blow up New York-area landmarks.
  • 1998: The Drudge Report says Newsweek magazine killed a story about an affair between President Bill Clinton and an unidentified White House intern, the same day Clinton gives a deposition in Paula Jones’ sexual harassment lawsuit against him in which he denies having had a sexual relationship with Monica Lewinsky.
  • 2001: Faced with an electricity crisis, California uses rolling blackouts to cut off power to hundreds of thousands of people; Gov. Gray Davis signs an emergency order authorizing the state to buy power. (Davis, a Democrat, is later recalled by voters, who then elect Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger to replace him.)
  • 2009: Israel declares a unilateral cease-fire in its 22-day Gaza offensive. 
  • 2014: President Barack Obama orders new limits on the way intelligence officials access phone records from hundreds of millions of Americans.
  • 2014: Acting Surgeon General Boris Lushniak marks the 50th anniversary of the Surgeon General’s report on smoking and health by saying one in 13 children could see their lives shortened by smoking unless the nation takes a more aggressive action to end the tobacco epidemic.
  • 2014: A Vatican document obtained by The Associated Press shows that in his last two years as pope, Benedict XVI defrocked nearly 400 priests for raping and molesting children.