Jan-22, 1973: A Landmark Supreme Court Case, Fallen Giants and Disaster at Kano

January 23, 1973, saw the U.S. Supreme Court announce its ruling in Roe v Wade, the death of President Lyndon Johnson, the deadliest aviation accident and George Foreman’s stunning upset of Heavyweight Champion Joe Frazier.

Roe v. Wade Legalizes Abortion

In 1969, Norma McCorvey discovered she was pregnant with her third child and sought an abortion which was prohibited under Texas law except when necessary to save the mother.  McCorvey decided to pursue a legal challenge, although gave birth to a daughter that was placed in adoption.

After the Northern District of Texas and the Fifth Circuit each held that the Texas law violated the constitutional right to privacy, the Supreme Court affirmed the ruling in a 7-2 decision.  The court stated that a woman’s right to an abortion fell within the right to privacy (recognized in Griswold v. Connecticut) protected by the Fourteenth Amendment. The decision gave a woman total autonomy over the pregnancy during the first trimester and defined different levels of state interest for the second and third trimesters. As a result, the laws of 46 states were affected by the Court’s ruling.

Justice Blackmun wrote the opinion which was joined by Chief Justice Burger and Justices Douglas, Brennan, Stewart, Marshall and Powell.  Justices White and Rehnquist dissented.  The ruling has been one of the court’s most controversial and divisive rulings in modern times.

LBJ Dies

Lyndon Baines Johnson, the former Congressman, Senate Majority Leader, Vice President and 36th President of the United States, died of a heart attack at his ranch in Stonewall, Texas.  Johnson died a mere two days after the second inaugural of his successor Richard Nixon and 48 days after the death of President Truman.

Johnson, through civil rights legislation and his Great Society programs, reshaped the United States in ways still felt today and has been rated among the top ten presidents in U.S. History according to recent surveys of Presidential historians.

Disaster at Kano Airport

A Boeing 707 chartered by Nigeria Airways to fly Muslim worshipers back from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia to Lagos, Nigeria was diverted due to bad weather to Kano International Airport approximately 500 miles northeast of Lagos.  Kano, however, was experiencing high winds at the time and the aircraft crashed and caught fire upon landing, killing 176 passengers and crew.  At the time it was the deadliest aviation accident in history, only to be surpassed 14-months later when a Turkish Airlines flight crashed outside Paris killing all 346 on board.  It remains the deadliest cash in Nigerian history.

Down Goes Frazier

George Foreman knocked down heavyweight champion Joe Frazier six times in two rounds to claim the undisputed heavyweight title.  It was Frazier’s first loss and was immortalized by Howard Cosell’s exclaiming “down goes Frazier, down goes Frazier” after the first knockdown.

Foreman would successfully defend his title twice before losing to Muhammad Ali in the “Rumble in the Jungle”.

For Frazier, it was his first loss.  He would eventually get one last title shot in the classic “Thrilla in Manila” in which he nearly beat Ali before throwing in the towel before the start of the 15th round.


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