On this day, Jan. 21 …

1977: On his first full day in office, President Jimmy Carter pardons almost all Vietnam War draft evaders.

Also on this day: 

  • 1793: During the French Revolution, King Louis XVI, condemned for treason, is executed on the guillotine.
  • 1861: Jefferson Davis of Mississippi and four other Southerners whose states seceded from the Union resign from the U.S. Senate.
  • 1924: Russian revolutionary Vladimir Lenin dies at age 53.
  • 1950: Former State Department official Alger Hiss, accused of being part of a Communist spy ring, is found guilty in New York of lying to a grand jury. 
  • 1954: The first atomic submarine, the USS Nautilus, is launched from Groton, Conn. (However, the Nautilus does not make its first nuclear-powered run until nearly a year later).
  • 1968: The North Vietnamese Army launches a full-scale assault against the U.S. combat base in Khe Sanh, South Vietnam, in a siege lasting 11 weeks; although the Americans are able to hold back the communists, they end up dismantling and abandoning the base.
  • 1982: Convict-turned-author Jack Henry Abbott is found guilty in New York of first-degree manslaughter in the stabbing death of waiter Richard Adan in 1981. (Abbott would be sentenced to 15 years to life in prison; he would commit suicide in 2002.)
  • 1997: Speaker Newt Gingrich is reprimanded and fined as the House votes for the first time in history to discipline its leader for ethical misconduct.
  • 1998: Pope John Paul II begins a historic pilgrimage to Cuba. 
  • 1998: Actor Jack Lord of "Hawaii Five-O" fame dies in Honolulu age 77.
  • 2003: The Census Bureau announces that Hispanics have surpassed blacks as America’s largest minority group.
  • 2009: The Senate confirms Hillary Rodham Clinton as secretary of state.
  • 2014: Former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, once viewed as a rising star in the GOP, and his wife, Maureen, are indicted on federal corruption charges; the couple denies wrongdoing. (A jury in Sept. 2014 would convict the McDonnells of doing favors for former Star Scientific CEO Jonnie Williams in exchange for more than $165,000 in low-interest loans and gifts. Their convictions would be later overturned as the U.S. Supreme Court narrowed the definition of public corruption.)
  • 2018: Security forces in Afghanistan bring an end to an overnight siege by Taliban militants at the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul; four American citizens are among 22 people killed in the 13-hour attack.