1968 IN REVIEW
JANUARY 20 Cougars Upset Bruins in the "Game of the Century"
KPRC-TV, December 1982: "Game of the Century" Retrospective
On January 20, some 53,000 basketball fans filled the Houston Astrodome to watch the no. 2 Houston Cougars play the no. 1 UCLA Bruins. Both teams were undefeated. The Cougars won 71–69, ending the Bruins' 47-game winning streak. Players from both teams went on to have successful professional careers, including Houston’s Elvin Hayes and UCLA’s Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. This 1982 retrospective asks former UH men’s basketball players and coaching staff to reflect on the “Game of the Century.” As the first NCAA regular season game broadcast nationwide in prime time, the matchup demonstrated the profitability of college basketball coverage.
JANUARY 23 North Korea Captures the USS Pueblo
On January 23, North Korean sub chasers and torpedo boats intercepted the USS Pueblo, a Navy intelligence vessel, in the Sea of Japan. One crewman was killed in the attack, while the other 82 were taken prisoner and moved to camps. The crewmen spent 11 months in captivity before the United States and North Korea negotiated a settlement for their release on December 23. The Pueblo stayed in North Korea, and is currently on display at the Pyongyang Victorious War Museum.
MARCH 31 LBJ Announces He Will Not Seek Re-election
The President, April 1968
In a nationally televised speech on March 31, President Lyndon B. Johnson announced a partial end to air and naval attacks against North Vietnam. The administration's strategy of military escalation had proved ineffective, and Johnson hoped a bombing halt would encourage peace negotiations. The president's concluding remarks, however, eclipsed the military pronouncement. To the surprise of the nation, Johnson declared that he "shall not seek, and will not accept, the nomination of my party for another term as president." His stunning exit precipitated a fierce Democratic presidential primary, fracturing party support largely on the issue of the Vietnam War. This segment from The President revisits the night of Johnson's announcement.
APRIL 4 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Assassinated
At 6:01 pm on April 4, James Earl Ray fatally shot Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as he stood on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, TN. The civil rights leader was rushed to the hospital to undergo surgery, but never regained consciousness. He was pronounced dead at 7:05 pm. Police apprehended Ray, a fugitive from the Missouri State Penitentiary, at London Heathrow Airport on June 8.
APRIL 6 HemisFair Opens
APRIL 11 LBJ Signs Civil Rights Act of 1968
Remarks Upon Signing the Civil Rights Act of 1968
On April 11, President Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1968—also known by the name of its main provision, the Fair Housing Act—into law. The legislation prohibited discrimination in the rental or sale of housing on the basis of race, religion, or national origin. This television news broadcast captures Johnson's remarks upon the bill's signing. In his speech, the president describes the legislation as an important step forward in the cause against injustice and invokes the memory of Dr. King, who was assassinated a week prior. Then CBS News correspondent Dan Rather provides voiceover commentary of the ceremony, describing the law's provisions and naming recipients of the signing pens.
MAY 3 Dr. Denton Cooley Performs First Successful Heart Transplant
KHOU-TV, May 3: Press Conference with Dr. Denton Cooley
On May 3, Dr. Denton Cooley and his surgical team at Houston's St. Luke's Episcopal Hospital successfully transplanted the heart of 15-year-old Kathleen Martin into 47-year-old Everett Thomas, an accountant from Phoenix. Cooley was not the first to perform the operation, that distinction went to Dr. Christiaan Barnard five months earlier in South Africa, but he was arguably the first to prove it successful. While other patients died soon after the procedure, Thomas lived for 204 days. Cooley's team performed two more heart transplants by May 7. In this news segment, Cooley holds a press conference to describe Thomas' operation. Helen Thomas then speaks to the media about how her husband was referred for surgery (01:45).
MAY 12 Poor People's Campaign Begins in Washington, DC
The Poor People’s Campaign, also known as the Poor People’s March on Washington, brought thousands of Americans to Washington, DC, to demand economic justice for the nation’s poor. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. initially organized the campaign. Ralph Abernathy, president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), took over leadership following King’s assassination. Demonstrations began on May 12, when Coretta Scott King led a march and rally in support of an Economic Bill of Rights. Throughout the month, SCLC mobilized nine caravans of protesters from across the nation to converge on Washington. In the nation’s capital, some 3,000 demonstrators set up a protest camp, known as "Resurrection City," on the National Mall.
JUNE 1 AstroWorld Opens
JUNE 5 Senator Robert F. Kennedy Assassinated
Just after midnight on June 5, Sirhan Sirhan fatally shot US Senator and presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy as he exited through the kitchen of the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. Sirhan fired multiple times, wounding five others besides Kennedy, before bystanders disarmed and subdued him. Kennedy died nearly 26 hours later. He had been at the hotel to address campaign supporters following his win in the California primary election.
JUNE 27 Miss Wool of America Pageant
JULY 29 Pope Paul VI Issues "Humanae Vitae"
KPRC-TV, July 30: Catholic Students Discuss Pope's "Humanae Vitae"
With the introduction of oral contraceptives—commonly known as “the Pill”—in 1960, faith communities began to reconsider religious policy surrounding sex and marriage. On July 29, Pope Paul VI issued an encyclical letter relating the position of the Roman Catholic Church on birth control. Entitled "Humanae Vitae: On the Regulation of Birth," the letter reaffirmed Church policy banning the use of most artificial contraceptives. The edict thus rejected the 1966 recommendation made by the Pontifical Commission of Birth Control, a majority of whom believed the Church should allow Catholic couples to decide for themselves. In this news segment, Catholic students studying at the University of Houston discuss what the encyclical means and how the Catholic community will respond.
AUGUST 8 Nixon Accepts the Republican Nomination
On August 5, Republican delegates, party leaders, and an army of press representatives convened at the Miami Beach Convention Center for the Republican National Convention. Over the next three days, convention attendees drafted a national party platform and voted on presidential and vice presidential candidates. Richard Nixon received enough votes to win the party's presidential nomination after the first ballot. He selected Governor Spiro Agnew of Maryland as his running mate. Television viewers watched nightly convention updates on the evening news.
AUGUST 20 Warsaw Pact Invasion of Czechoslovakia
On the night of August 20, approximately 200,000 communist troops from five Warsaw Pact nations—the Soviet Union, Bulgaria, Hungary, East Germany, and Poland—invaded Czechoslovakia. The invading force detained government leaders and transported them to Moscow, as well as seized control of Prague television and radio stations. More than 120 Czechoslovakian civilians were killed, most of them protesters. The attack was intended to crush the democratic reforms of the “Prague Spring,” a brief period of liberalization in the communist country. On August 27, Czechoslovakia First Secretary Alexander Dubček returned to Prague and announced he had agreed to curtail his reforms.
AUGUST 29 Humphrey Accepts the Democratic Nomination
A contentious primary season drew to a close on August 26 as delegates and party officials gathered in Chicago for the Democratic National Convention. Intra-party dissidence persisted on the floor of the International Amphitheater, with a failure to compromise on the Vietnam plank and rumors of a last-minute nomination of Senator Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts. Vice President Hubert Humphrey nevertheless easily won the presidential nomination, and offered Senator Edmund Muskie of Maine as his running mate. National and local television news stations broadcast nightly convention updates.
OCTOBER 11 Apollo 7 Launches
On October 11, Apollo 7 launched from Launch Complex 34 at Cape Kennedy Air Force Station. The mission was NASA's first since the ill-fated Apollo 1 to carry a full crew aboard a spacecraft. As such, Commander Wally Schirra, Command Module Pilot Donn Eisele, and Lunar Module Pilot Walt Cunningham became the first to successfully complete a manned Apollo spaceflight. The mission's primary objective was to demonstrate the functionality of the command and service module, including its rendezvous capability. Apollo 7 also provided the first live television transmission from space. The flight crew returned to Earth on October 22.
OCTOBER 22 LBJ Signs Gun Control Act of 1968
The President, October 1968
Days after Dr. King's death, Congress introduced a bill later known as the Gun Control Act of 1968. The bill banned the mail-order sale of handguns, rifles, and shotguns as well as prohibited certain felons, drug users, and those found mentally incompetent from buying firearms. A joint conference committee approved the legislation on October 10, and President Johnson signed it into law on October 22. This segment from The President captures Johnson's remarks at the signing ceremony.
OCTOBER 31 LBJ Orders Bombing Halt on North Vietnam
On October 31, President Johnson ordered an end to American air and naval bombardment of North Vietnam effective November 1. With the action, the federal government aimed to facilitate expanded peace negotiations with delegations from South Vietnam, North Vietnam, and the Viet Cong. The talks—scheduled for November 6 in Paris—were postponed after the South Vietnamese government refused to participate, citing opposition to the Viet Cong's equal standing at the table. It was later revealed that the Nixon campaign lobbied South Vietnamese officials to hold out for a better deal under the candidate's presumed administration.
NOVEMBER 5 Election Day
An eventful presidential election ended on November 5 as Americans cast their ballots. The race proved too close to call that night, with television networks not declaring Republican Richard Nixon the winner until the following morning. Nixon received 301 electoral votes to Democrat Hubert Humphrey's 191. The popular vote was significantly tighter, with Nixon receiving just over 500,000 more votes than his chief opponent. Third-party presidential candidate George Wallace won five Southern states, receiving 46 electoral votes. Texas went for Humphrey by a 1.27 percent margin.