South Africa’s newly elected parliament chooses Nelson Mandela to be the country’s first black president on May 9, 1994, four years after his release from prison. He had been serving a life sentence on charges of sabotage and conspiring to overthrow the government.
Alan Shepard becomes the first American to travel into space on May 5, 1961.
On May 9, 1961, newly appointed FCC chair Newton Minow invites members of the National Association of Broadcasters to observe a full day of TV. If they do, he says, they’ll visit a “vast wasteland.”
Reggae musician Bob Marley dies of cancer at age 36 on May 11, 1981. In December 1999, Time magazine names his 1977 Exodus recording Album of the Century.
On the way to winning the Triple Crown, Secretariat wins the Kentucky Derby May 5, 1973. His record time of 1:59.4 still stands.
Born May 8, 1964, Melissa Gilbert becomes a TV star at age 9 as Laura Ingalls on the NBC series Little House on the Prairie (1974-83). Her sister, Sara Gilbert, is 13 when she is cast as Darlene in the hit sitcom Roseanne (1989-97).
A jury of architects and sculptors on May 6, 1981, unanimously selects a design by Maya Lin, 21, for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial over 1,420 other entries.
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Credits – Nelson Mandela: Alexander Joe/AFP/Getty Images; Vietnam Memorial: Hu Totya – Wikimedia
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