March 1981

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29 30 31  
March 30, 1981: U.S. President Reagan shot and wounded by John Hinckley, Jr.
Secretary Haig "in control"

The following events occurred in March 1981:

March 1, 1981 (Sunday)Edit

March 2, 1981 (Monday)Edit

March 3, 1981 (Tuesday)Edit

March 4, 1981 (Wednesday)Edit

  • Six days after he had come into possession of $1.2 million in cash that had fallen from an armored car, Joey Coyle was arrested at JFK International Airport, where he had been preparing to fly to Mexico City. Coyle was acquitted of theft less than a year later. He committed suicide on August 15, 1993, a month before the release of a film based on his story, Money for Nothing[11]
  • CBS Sports paid $48,000,000 for the rights to broadcast the NCAA men's basketball tournament for three years, outbidding the NBC network, which had built the popularity of the playoffs since 1969. Bryant Gumbel would later comment, "I thought, How weird. We make the tournament a big deal and basically give it away." [12]
  • Died: Yip Harburg, 84, American lyricist (Over the Rainbow), in an auto accident

March 5, 1981 (Thursday)Edit

  • Continental Airlines Flight 72 was briefly hijacked by a man who had been fired the day before from his job at the Los Angeles International Airport. Victor Malasauskas brought a 9-mm automatic pistol with him after buying a seat in first-class on the flight bound from LAX to Phoenix. An alert flight attendant saw that he had a concealed weapon, and all but four passengers and two flight attendants were able to get off of the airplane before he realized that he had been spotted. The last of the hostages escaped later in the day.[13] Malasauskas, whose claim that he had a bomb turned out to be false, was later sentenced to 20 years in prison.[14]

March 6, 1981 (Friday)Edit

March 7, 1981 (Saturday)Edit

  • John W. Hinckley, Jr. was met at the airport in Denver by his parents, who followed the advice of his psychiatrist and barred him from returning home. The senior Hinckley would later testify, in what he would describe as "the greatest mistake of my life" that he gave his son "a couple of hundred dollars" and told him "O.K., you're on your own. Do whatever you want to." Twenty-three days later, the younger Hinckley carried out an assassination attempt against the President of the United States.[16]
  • Eugenia Charles, the Prime Minister of Dominica, announced the arrests of former Prime Minister Patrick John and Defence Force Commander Frederick Newton. Charles said that a coup had been planned for March 14, and she added "I would hope that death would be the penalty, but I can't say that for sure." [17]
  • Died:
    • Bosley Crowther, 75, American film critic for the New York Times
    • Hilde Krahwinkel Sperling, 72, American tennis player, French Open champion 1935-37
    • Chet Bitterman, 28, American missionary taken hostage in Colombia
    • Mel C. Yorda, 18, first person to ever be murdered at Disneyland
    • Kiril Kondrashin, 67, Soviet conductor who defected to the Netherlands in 1978

March 8, 1981 (Sunday)Edit

  • An accident at the Tsuruga Nuclear Power Plant in Japan led to the spill of thousands of gallons of radioactive wastewater. Fifty-six plant employees were exposed to radiation after being sent to mop up the leak. The incident was not revealed to the public until six weeks later, on April 21.[18]
  • In Argentina, an express train, that was bringing 800 passengers back from vacation, crashed into two derailed fuel tanker cars, killing 45 people and injuring 120. The "Firefly" express was returning to Buenos Aires from the seaside resort of Mar del Plata.[19]

March 9, 1981 (Monday)Edit

March 10, 1981 (Tuesday)Edit

  • The eleven-year controversy over Roger Coleman began when the body of Wanda Fay McCoy was discovered in her home in Grundy, Virginia.[23] Coleman, her brother-in-law, was convicted of her rape and murder based on blood and hair evidence, as well as testimony from a cellmate, and sentenced to death. Coleman fought for a new trial and maintained his innocence all the way to his execution in the electric chair on May 21, 1992.[24] More than 13 years later, DNA testing confirmed that the pubic hairs found on the victim had indeed been those of Coleman, and that the blood found on his pants had been that of McCoy. "[25]
  • U.S. Patent No. 4,255,811 was issued to Dr. Roy L. Adler under the title "Key Control Block Cipher System" for a data encryption algorithm developed by him in 1974 while he was employed at IBM. Besides being applied in cryptography, the 128-bit encoding algorithm was also used in creating more secure keycard entry systems.[26]
  • Born: Samuel Eto'o, Cameroonian footballer, in Nkon

March 11, 1981 (Wednesday)Edit

March 12, 1981 (Thursday)Edit

  • Women, children and other inhabitants of the El Salvador village of El Junquillo (in the Morazan Department) were murdered on orders of Salvadoran Army Captain Carlos Medina Garay, at the conclusion of nine-day long military operation against rebellious forces. The details of the massacre were brought out in an investigation more than a decade later by the "Commission on Truth", which had been created as part of a 1992 peace agreement.[29]
  • Timothy Hill, 13, disappeared in Atlanta, 10 days after his 15-year-old friend Joseph Bell had vanished, as the two became the latest victims of the murder of children in Atlanta. Hill's body would be found on March 30, and Bell's on April 19. They would prove to be the last of 23 African-American children (16 or younger) to be murdered in Atlanta over a nearly two-year period. Wayne Williams, who was suspected in the killings, was charged with and convicted of the murders of two adult victims.[30]

March 13, 1981 (Friday)Edit

  • The first world speedcubing championship tournament, requiring participants to properly align the squares of a Rubik's Cube in the shortest amount of time, took place in Munich. Jury Fröschl won the first competition with a time of 38 seconds.[31]
  • The Colombian guerrilla organization M-19 kidnapped Martha Nieves Ochoa Vasquez, the sister of Medellin Cartel druglord Jorge Luis Ochoa. The rival Colombian traffickers formed a temporary alliance, which they called Muerte a Secuestradores, ("Death to Kidnappers") and announced the imminent execution of any guerrilla kidnappers. After being threatened with reprisals, M-19 released Martha Nieves unharmed several months later.

March 14, 1981 (Saturday)Edit

  • The hijacking of Pakistan International Airlines Flight 326 ended, as gunmen freed more than 100 hostages who had been held captive on the jet for nearly two weeks. Three gunmen had seized the Boeing 720 jet during a flight from Karachi to Peshawar on March 2 and commandeered the jet to Kabul, and one passenger was murdered. Pakistan released 55 prisoners to secure the release of the hostages.[32]
  • DePaul University's basketball team, unbeaten and ranked No. 1 during most of the season, was upset by St. Joseph's University, 49-48, in the second round of the NCAA tournament.[33]
  • Nineteen residents of the Royal Beach Hotel in Chicago, a "skid row" apartment for transients, died in fire caused by faulty wiring.[34]

March 15, 1981 (Sunday)Edit

  • Philip C. Testa, crime boss of the Philadelphia mob and nicknamed "The Chicken Man", was murdered by a car bomb as he attempted to walk into his home at 2117 Porter Street.[35]
  • Francis Hughes became the second inmate at Maze Prison to begin a hunger strike, joining fellow Provisional IRA member Bobby Sands in refusing food. Hughes would also become the second of the strikers to die, succumbing on May 12, one week after the death of Sands.[36]
  • Born: Young Buck, American rapper, as David D. Brown in Nashville
  • Died: René Clair, 82, French film director

March 16, 1981 (Monday)Edit

  • Ronald Biggs, a participant in the Great Train Robbery of 1963 in Great Britain, had been living freely in Brazil after escaping from prison in 1965. Biggs was kidnapped after being lured to a restaurant in Rio de Janeiro on the pretext that he was to be photographed for a book, then put on a yacht and taken to Barbados. The government of Barbados refused to allow Biggs to be extradited back to the United Kingdom, and Biggs was allowed to return to Brazil after six weeks.[37] Biggs voluntarily returned to Britain at the age of 71 and stayed in prison from 2001 to 2008.[38]

March 17, 1981 (Tuesday)Edit

  • In Italy, the scandal of Propaganda Due began when police raided the villa of Licio Gelli villa at Arezzo, and discovered a list of 962 members of the secret society "P2", suspected in the embezzlement by Roberto Calvi of hundreds of millions of dollars from the Banco Ambrosiano.[39]

March 18, 1981 (Wednesday)Edit

  • The television show The Greatest American Hero premiered on ABC, starring William Katt as Ralph Hinkley, an ordinary teacher who was given super powers, but not the knowledge of how to control them. Less than two weeks later, after John W. Hinckley, Jr. shot U.S. President Ronald Reagan, the character was renamed "Mr. H." The show's theme song, Believe It or Not (sung by Joey Scarbury) became a hit single, rising to No. 2 on the Billboard Top 40.
  • Born: Fabian Cancellara, Swiss bicyclist and three time world champion on time trial (2006, 2007, 2008 Olympics, 2009), in Wohlen bei Bern

March 19, 1981 (Thursday)Edit

  • Two workers died and four were injured after a test of the Space Shuttle Columbia, becoming the first of 16 deaths associated with the American space shuttle program. After a test-firing of the engines and the sounding of the "all clear", the group of six Rockwell International technicians had walked into a chamber of the shuttle, unaware that the area was filled primarily with nitrogen gas, and almost no oxygen. John Bjornstad died immediately, and Forrest Cole was taken off life support on April 1.[40] The Columbia itself would be destroyed on January 16, 2003 on its 28th mission, killing all seven of the astronauts on board.
  • Arkansas became the first state to require the teaching of "Creationism", as Governor Frank White signed into law Senate Resolution 590, "An act to require balanced treatment of creation-science and evolution-science in public schools". The act, challenged later in McLean v. Arkansas, had passed the state Senate 22-2 and the state House 69-18.[41]
  • Born: Kolo Touré, Ivorian footballer, in Bouake

March 20, 1981 (Friday)Edit

March 21, 1981 (Saturday)Edit

  • Michael Donald, a young African-American male who had been selected at random by a pair of racists, was kidnapped and murdered in Mobile, Alabama by James Llewelyn Knowles and Henry F. Hayes, two members of the United Klans of America who said later that they had been outraged when a mistrial had been declared in the trial of a black criminal defendant. Donald's mother sued the Klan organization and won a seven million dollar verdict, effectively bankrupting the white supremacist group.[44]

March 22, 1981 (Sunday)Edit

March 23, 1981 (Monday)Edit

  • The cost of mailing a letter in the United States went up 20%, as the price of a first-class stamp was increased from 15 cents to 18 cents. The price increase had taken effect the day before, when American post offices were closed.[46]
  • Died:
    • Field Marshal Sir Claude Auchinleck, 96, British military leader during World War II
    • Beatrice Tinsley, 40, British astronomer
    • Mike Hailwood, 40, British motorcyclist and ten time world motorcycle racing champion, in an auto accident

March 24, 1981 (Tuesday)Edit

  • The Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) carried out the largest crusade against Nazis since that nation's founding in 1949, raiding hundreds of homes of suspected Neo-Nazi members and confiscating party literature and propaganda, much of it written by Ernst Zündel. "Neo-Nazi Propaganda Is Seized in West Germany", New York Times, March 25, 1981; Alan T. Davies, Antisemitism in Canada: History and Interpretation (Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 1992) p265;

March 25, 1981 (Wednesday)Edit

  • Tamil separatist leader Selvarajah Yogachandran, better known by his code name of "Kuttimani", carried out the largest robbery, to that time, in the history of Sri Lanka. In an operation planned jointly by his TELO organization and the Tamil Tigers, Kuttmani and his gunmen ambushed an armored truck that was taking cash from Neervely to Jaffna, killed its guards, and took 7,900,000 Sri Lankan rupees, worth roughly $400,000 at the time, to finance the rebel movement. Kuttmani and his henchmen became the subject of a massive manhunt, and were arrested eleven days later.
  • Popular YouTube Vlogger Casey Neistat is born.[47]

March 26, 1981 (Thursday)Edit

March 27, 1981 (Friday)Edit

  • Beginning at 8:00 in the morning, millions of workers in Poland, representing the majority of that nation's labor force, walked off of their jobs for four hours in a demonstration of support for the Solidarity movement. The employees then returned to their posts at noon.[50]
  • The United Mine Workers went on strike at 12:01 am, with 160,000 American coal miners walking off of their jobs.[51]
  • At 3:10 pm in Cocoa Beach, Florida, eleven construction workers were killed when the five story tall Harbour Cay Condominiums building collapsed. A bucket of wet concrete had slipped from a crane and fallen through the building's roof, and into the floors below.[52]
  • Goaltender Ron Loustel played in his sole NHL game, allowing 10 goals against, the most of any goalie who played only 1 NHL game.
  • Born: JJ Lin, Taiwan based R&B singer, as Lín Jùn Jié in Singapore
  • Died: Juri Kukk, 41, Estonian professor of chemistry, in a Soviet labor camp from effects of a hunger strike.

March 28, 1981 (Saturday)Edit

March 29, 1981 (Sunday)Edit

March 30, 1981 (Monday)Edit

  • At 2:25 pm, U.S. President Ronald Reagan was shot in the chest as he walked out of the Washington Hilton Hotel to his limousine. John Hinckley, Jr. fired six shots from a Röhm RG-14 .22 caliber pistol, striking Press Secretary James Brady and Washington D.C. police officer Thomas Delahanty with the first two bullets, Secret Service Agent Tim McCarthy with the fourth, and the presidential limousine with the last two shots. The sixth bullet ricocheted off of the limo and struck Reagan.[57] Reagan was rushed into surgery at 3:24 pm and remained in the hospital for two weeks.[58]
  • Indiana University won the 1981 NCAA men's basketball championship, defeating the University of North Carolina 63-50 after the NCAA elected against postponing the matchup. Virginia defeated L.S.U. 78-74 to win third place in the consolation game, which was discontinued after 1981. The Academy Awards, scheduled for the same night, were postponed to the nexst day.
  • Died:

And Sarah Fineman's birth= of thee invisible to be visible in a world of make believe I hear(here) and I am (I) and eye see I and you and you are autistic not me but we shall agree to disagree because I am me and you are you and if I (am) you are too you're just the opposite there's always (2) (to) (be) only fare (fair) ya hear (here) now do you (see) the (sea) it's beautiful what a dream thank you may we please all together it's not fare it's (fair) I do see can you I'm just purposely challenging so you can see more of what I see when you try cause I see everything and hear it all and would like it if you did too to at least try it's not a bad thing it's good I promise in (parentheses) now that ×2π

March 31, 1981 (Tuesday)Edit

  • At 2:40 pm in Bangkok, Indonesian commandos successfully rescued all hostages on board the hijacked Garuda Indonesia Flight 206, after getting permission from Thailand authorities.[60]—2:40 pm in Bangkok
  • Chicago's Mayor Jane Byrne and her husband moved into the Cabrini–Green public housing project in an unprecedented demonstration of commitment to the needs of her lower income constituents. Byrne took up residence in Apartment 402 at 1160 Sedgewick Road for several months.[61]
  • Died: Enid Bagnold, 91, British author, playwright and socialite [62]


  1. ^ "IRA inmate starts 'fast until death' in Belfast", Chicago Tribune, March 2, 1981, p2
  2. ^ "Sands Dies, Crowds Riot", Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, May 5, 1981, p1
  3. ^ The Scribner Encyclopedia of American Lives: 1997-1999 (Simon and Schuster, 2001) p229
  4. ^ Arthur C. Clarke, 3001: The Final Odyssey (Random House, Inc., 1998) p259
  5. ^ Richard Cadena, Automated Lighting: The Art and Science of Moving Light in Theatre, Live Performance, Broadcast and Entertainment (Focal Press, 2006) pp20-21
  6. ^ "Pakistani hijacks jets to Afghan capital", St. Petersburg Times, March 3, 1981, p13A
  7. ^ "Giscard opens campaign to retain France's presidency", Anchorage Daily News, March 2, 1981, pA-7
  8. ^ "Terrorism: New Pieces for the Puzzle", TIME Magazine, February 7, 1983
  9. ^ "Party re-elects Brezhnev, other leaders of Politburo", Wilmington (NC) Star-News, March 4, 1981, p2
  10. ^ Young Whan Kihl, Transforming Korean Politics: Democracy, Reform, and Culture (M.E. Sharpe, 2005) p356
  11. ^ "Stroke of luck changed man's life - but for the worse", The Milwaukee Journal, August 16, 1993, pA-5
  12. ^ Seth Davis, When March Went Mad: The Game That Transformed Basketball (Macmillan, 2009) p244; "N.C.A.A. Title Basketball Sold to CBS for $48 Million", New York Times, March 5, 1981, pD-19
  13. ^ "Hijacker Surrenders Jetliner in L.A.-- Last of 6 Hostages Escapes", Toledo Blade, March 6, 1981, p1
  14. ^ [1]
  15. ^ Michael D. Murray, "Cronkite, Walter", in Encyclopedia of Television News (Oryx Press, 1999) p57
  16. ^ "Hinckley's Father Tells the Court, 'I am the cause of John's tragedy'", New York Times, May 13, 1982, p1
  17. ^ "Coup suspects arrested", Montreal Gazette, March 9, 1981, p53; Stewart Bell, Bayou of Pigs: The True Story of an Audacious Plot to Turn a Tropical Island Into a Criminal Paradise (John Wiley and Sons, 200) p140
  18. ^ "Japan Says Nuclear Mishap Exposed 56 to Radiation", New York Times, April 22, 1981, p1; Herman Koren and Michael S. Bisesi, Handbook of Environmental Health: Pollutant Interactions in Air, Water, and Soil (CRC Press, 2003), p28
  19. ^ "Train wreck in Argentina kills 45 on holiday ride", Montreal Gazette, March 9, 1981, p1
  20. ^ Lawrence H. Cohn, Cardiac Surgery in the Adult (McGraw-Hill Professional, 2008) p1579
  21. ^ "Heart-Lung transplantation: successful therapy for patients with pulmonary vascular disease", by B.A. Reitz, et al. New England Journal of Medicine 306:557-64 (March 11, 1982); Stephen Westaby, with Cecil Boshe, Landmarks in Cardiac Surgery (Informa Health Care, 1997) p641
  22. ^ James S. O'Rourke, The Business Communication Casebook: A Notre Dame Collection (Cengage Learning, 2007) pp27-33
  23. ^ D. Kim Rossmo, Criminal Investigative Failures (CRC Press, 2008) p254
  24. ^ "Coleman put to death", Roanoke (VA) Times, May 21, 1992
  25. ^ DNA Ties Man Executed in '92 to the Murder He Denied", New York Times, January 13, 2006
  26. ^ Alan G. Konheim, Computer Security and Cryptography (Wiley-Interscience, 2007) p329
  27. ^ Julie Mertus, Kosovo: How Myths and Truths Started a War (University of California Press, 1999) pp 29-31; Dejan Jović, Yugoslavia: A State That Withered Away (Purdue University Press, 2009) p184
  28. ^ "Man Thanks Dog Dish, Fall For Restored Sight", Toledo Blade, March 14, 1981, p1; Adam Sisman, The World's Most Incredible Stories: The Best of Fortean Times (Barnes & Noble Publishing, 1998) p89
  29. ^ Neil J. Kritz, Transitional Justice: How Emerging Democracies Reckon with Former Regimes (U.S. Institute of Peace Press, 1995) p194
  30. ^ Atlanta child murders
  31. ^ Rubik's Cube Dimensions
  32. ^ "History of PIA: Hijackings"; "Pakistani hijackers free hostages", Milwaukee Journal, March 15, 1981, p1
  33. ^ ESPN College Basketball Encyclopedia: The Complete History of the Men's Game (Random House, Inc., 2009) By ESPN, Bill Bradley p391; "Panic, perfect play beat No. 1-ranked team", Chicago Tribune, March 15, 1981
  34. ^ "Chicago Apartment Fire Is Fatal To 19", Toledo Blade, March 15, 1981, p1
  35. ^ Mafia: The Government's Secret File on Organized Crime By Bureau of Narcotics, Sam G (Skyhorse Publishing Inc., 2009) p298; "Boss of Philly Mob Killed In Bomb Blast", Pittsburgh Press, March 16, 1981, p1
  36. ^ The Hunger Strike of 1981
  37. ^ "Island judge frees train robber Biggs", Montreal Gazette, April 24, 1981, p1
  38. ^ "The Big One: Ronald Biggs and the Great Train Robbery", by Patrick Bellamy,
  39. ^ Donatella Della Porta and Alberto Vannucci, Corrupt Exchanges: Actors, Resources, and Mechanisms of Political Corruption (Transaction Publishers, 1999) p168
  40. ^ "Error On Space Shuttle Kills One, Injures Five", Toledo Blade, March 20, 1981, p1; "Failure in Communications Cited in Shuttle Pad Deaths", New York Times, June 20, 1981
  41. ^ Norman L. Geisler, Creation & the Courts: Eighty Years of Conflict in the Classroom and the Courtroom (Good News Publishers, 2007) pp91-93
  42. ^ "International Group of Physicians Gathers in Virginia to Warn of Nuclear War's Effects", New York Times, March 21, 1981, p95
  43. ^ "The K.G.B.'s Magical War for 'Peace'", by John Barron, Reader's Digest (October 1982), reprinted in The Apocalyptic Premise: Nuclear Arms Debated (Rowman & Littlefield, 1982) p129
  44. ^ Sara Bullard, The Ku Klux Klan: A History of Racism & Violence (DIANE Publishing, 1996)p38; "Battling Hate Groups Through the Civil Justice System" Archived 2010-09-18 at the Wayback Machine; "The Woman Who Beat The Klan", New York Times, November 1, 1987
  45. ^ Alan J. K. Sanders, Historical Dictionary of Mongolia (Rowman & Littlefield, 2003) p145; "Soviet, Mongolian Spacemen Launched on Linkup Mission", Toledo Blade, March 23, 1981, p2
  46. ^ "Mail Rate Will Go Up To 18 Cents March 22", Toledo Blade, March 11, 1981, p1
  47. ^ "The Burning of the Jaffna Library", by T. Sabaratnam,
  48. ^ "Carol Wins $1.6 Million In Libel Suit", Pittsburgh Press, March 26, 1981, p1; Jack Vitek, The Godfather of Tabloid: Generoso Pope Jr. and the National Enquirer (University Press of Kentucky, 2008) pp184-188; "Burnett v. National Enquirer, Inc.", 144 Cal.App.3d 991 (1983)
  49. ^ "New Political Party Organized In Britain", Pittsburgh Press, March 26, 1981, p1
  50. ^ "4-hour strike steps up Polish crisis", Milwaukee Journal, March 27, 1981, p. 1; George Weigel, Witness to Hope: The Biography of Pope John Paul II (HarperCollins, 2005) p410
  51. ^ "Coal Miners Strike as Contract Expires", New York Times, March 27, 1981
  52. ^ "Nine Workers Die in Condo Collapse", Palm Beach Post, March 28, 1981, p. 1; "Condo falls, killing 11", Milwaukee Journal, March 28, 1981, p. 1; Jacob Feld and Kenneth L. Carper, Construction failure (John Wiley and Sons, 1997) p18
  53. ^ "Phil Mahre Captures World Cup", Daytona Beach (FL) Morning Journal, March 29, 1981, p11-B
  54. ^ John H. McGlynn and Hermawan Sulistyo, Indonesia in the Soeharto Years: Issues, Incidents and Images (NUS Press, 2007) p178
  55. ^ Richard Benyo and Joe Henderson, Running Encyclopedia, (Human Kinetics, 2002) p136
  56. ^ George A. López and Michael Stohl, Liberalization and Redemocratization in Latin America (Greenwood Publishing Group, 1987) p217
  57. ^ Herbert L. Abrams, The president has been shot: confusion, disability, and the 25th Amendment (Stanford University Press, 1994) p29
  58. ^ Kris Hollington, Wolves, Jackals, and Foxes: The Assassins Who Changed History (Macmillan, 2008); Ronald Reagan, An American life (Simon and Schuster, 1990) p259
  59. ^ Bil Carpenter, Uncloudy Days: The Gospel Music Encyclopedia, p29
  60. ^ "Terrorism: A Fusillade During Prayers", TIME Magazine, April 13, 1981; "Four hijackers die, hostages freed as troops storm jet", Milwaukee Sentinel, March 31, 1981, p2
  61. ^ "Byrne moves into Cabrini; gang raided", Chicago Tribune, April 1, 1981, p1; Jane Byrne, My Chicago (Northwestern University Press, 2003) p318
  62. ^