It’s Been Half a Century!

Here is a list of “firsts” from fifty years ago (1966).  A fun stroll through history.

  • 1st civilian astronaut to orbit the earth (Neil Armstrong, March 16th)
  • 1st Black Panther Party organizational meeting (Oakland, CA, October 15th)
  • 1st Black Power advocate (Stokely Carmichael, chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, Atlanta, GA, in June)
  • 1st African-American cabinet member (Robert Clifton Weaver, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, January 18th)
  • 1st car with front-wheel drive (Oldsmobile Toronado)
  • 1st medical substitute for catgut (Dexon, a polyglycolic acid suture produced in April)
  • 1st African American professional basketball coach (Bill Russell, Boston Celtics)
  • 1st African American Coast Guard Academy graduate (Merle James Smith, Jr., Baltimore, MD, June 8th)
  • 1st computer modem that was practical (John van Geen, Stanford, CA)
  • 1st Department of Transportation (October 15th)
  • 1st endangered species list issued by the federal government
  • 1st federal district court judge who was an African-American woman (Constance Baker Motley, August 30th)
  • 1st hospital to offer a sex-change operation (John Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD)
  • 1st Kwanzaa celebration (December 26th, California)
  • 1st manned docking of two spacecraft (March 16th, Gemeni 8 and an Agena target vehicle)
  • 1st female marathon runner from the United States (Roberta “Bobbi” Gibb, Boston Marathon)
  • 1st Medal of Honor awarded to a Seabee (Marvin Glen Shields of Port Townsend, WA, for heroism in the 14-hour battle at Dongzoal, Vietnam, awarded September 13th, posthumously)
  • 1st motorboat ocean race (Sam Griffith Memorial Race, Miami, FL to Bimini, Bahamas, February 22nd)
  • 1st National Endowment for the Humanities grants (American Society of Papyrologists, Cincinnati, OH)
  • 1st African-American Navy captain (Thomas David Parham, Jr., Newport News, VA, February 1st)
  • 1st open-reel video tape recorder for home use (Sony’s TCV-2010)
  • 1st parachute jumper snagged by an airplane in midair (Charles M. Alexander, Sussex County Airport, Georgetown, DE, August 29th)
  • 1st photograph of the earth taken from the moon (Lunar Orbiter 1, August 23rd)
  • 1st rocket-tracking ship (Vanguard [WWII tanker], January 31st)
  • 1st African-American Senator to be elected by popular vote (Edward William Brooke, Massachusetts, November 8th)
  • 1st Sergeant Major of the Army (William O. Wooldridge, Shawnee, OK, July 11th)
  • 1st space probe to achieve a lunar orbit (Lunar Orbiter 1, August 14th)
  • 1st space treaty signed by the United States (Treaty on Principles of Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, Including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies [endorsed by the United Nations General Assembly], December 19th)
  • 1st x-ray three-dimensional stereo fluoroscopic system (University of Oregon Medical Center, Portland, OR, April 15th)

Source: Famous First Facts by Joseph Nathan Kane, Steven Anzovin, and Janet Podell.

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