1977 – Capital punishment in the United States resumes after a ten-year hiatus, as convicted murderer Gary Gilmore is executed by firing squad in Utah.
1961 – Former Congolese Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba is murdered in circumstances suggesting the support and complicity of the governments of Belgium and the United States.
1946 – The UN Security Council holds its first session.
1944 – World War II: Allied forces launch the first of four assaults on Monte Cassino with the intention of breaking through the Winter Line and seizing Rome, an effort that would ultimately take four months and cost 105,000 Allied casualties.
1929 – Popeye the Sailor Man, a cartoon character created by E. C. Segar, first appears in the Thimble Theatre comic strip.
1918 – Finnish Civil War: The first serious battles take place between the Red Guards and the White Guard.
1917 – The United States pays Denmark $25 million for the Virgin Islands.
1903 – El Yunque National Forest in Puerto Rico becomes part of the United States National Forest System as the Luquillo Forest Reserve.
1899 – The United States takes possession of Wake Island in the Pacific Ocean.
1873 – A group of Modoc warriors defeats the United States Army in the First Battle of the Stronghold, part of the Modoc War.
1781 – American Revolutionary War: Battle of Cowpens: Continental troops under Brigadier General Daniel Morgan defeat British forces under Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton at the battle in South Carolina.
1773 – Captain James Cook commands the first expedition to sail south of the Antarctic Circle.
1991 – Alise Post, American BMX rider. Alise Rose Willoughby (born January 17, 1991) is an American professional "Current School" Bicycle Motocross (BMX) racer whose prime competitive years are from 2002–Present.
1991 – Trevor Bauer, American baseball player. Trevor Andrew Bauer (born January 17, 1991) is an American professional baseball pitcher for the Cincinnati Reds of Major League Baseball (MLB).
1989 – Taylor Jordan, American baseball player. Taylor Jordan (born January 17, 1989) is an American professional baseball pitcher for the Sioux City Explorers of the American Association of Independent Professional Baseball.
1987 – Cody Decker, American major league baseball player. Cody Marshall Decker (born January 17, 1987) is an American former professional baseball player who played for the San Diego Padres of Major League Baseball (MLB).
1985 – Betsy Ruth, American wrestler and manager. MaryKate Duignan Glidewell (born January 17, 1985) is an American professional wrestler.
1982 – Dwyane Wade, American basketball player. After a successful college basketball career with the Marquette Golden Eagles, Wade was drafted fifth overall in the 2003 NBA draft by the Heat.
1980 – Maksim Chmerkovskiy, Ukrainian-American dancer and choreographer. In his 17 seasons as a competing pro on the show, Chmerkovskiy made it to the final round five times, with two runner-up and two third-place finishes.
1980 – Zooey Deschanel, American singer-songwriter and actress. Deschanel is known for her deadpan roles in comedy films such as The Good Girl (2002), The New Guy (2002), Elf (2003), The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (2005), Failure to Launch (2006), Yes Man (2008) and 500 Days of Summer (2009).
1974 – Derrick Mason, American football player. Derrick James Mason (born January 17, 1974) is a former American football wide receiver who played for fifteen seasons in the National Football League (NFL).
1971 – Kid Rock, American singer-songwriter, producer, and actor. A multi-instrumentalist, he has overseen his own production on nine of his eleven studio albums.
1970 – Genndy Tartakovsky, Russian-American animator, director, and producer. He is the creator of the animated television series Dexter's Laboratory, Samurai Jack, Star Wars: Clone Wars, and Primal on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim.
1970 – Jeremy Roenick, American ice hockey player and actor. Jeremy Shaffer Roenick (/ˈroʊnɪk/; born January 17, 1970) is an American former professional ice hockey player who played the majority of his career in the National Hockey League (NHL).
1966 – Joshua Malina, American actor. He is well-known for playing Will Bailey on the NBC drama The West Wing, Jeremy Goodwin on Sports Night, David Rosen on Scandal, and President Siebert on The Big Bang Theory.
1964 – Michelle Obama, American lawyer and activist, 46th First Lady of the United States, was the first lady of the United States from 2009 to 2017. She is married to the 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama, and was the first African American First Lady of the United States.
1962 – Jim Carrey, Canadian-American actor and producer. He is known for his energetic slapstick performances.
1962 – Sebastian Junger, American journalist and author. He also wrote the book War (2010).
1961 – Brian Helgeland, American director, producer, and screenwriter. Confidential (for which he received the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay), Mystic River, and A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master.
1960 – Chili Davis, Jamaican-American baseball player and coach. His first major league coaching position after his playing career was with the Oakland Athletics from 2012 to 2014.
1959 – Susanna Hoffs, American singer-songwriter, guitarist, and actress. She is best known as a co-founder of The Bangles.
1957 – Ann Nocenti, American journalist and author. As an editor for Marvel Comics, she edited New Mutants and The Uncanny X-Men.
1957 – Steve Harvey, American actor, comedian, television personality and game show host. He hosts The Steve Harvey Morning Show, Family Feud, Celebrity Family Feud, the Miss Universe competition (since 2015) and Fox's New Year's Eve (since 2017).
1955 – Steve Earle, American singer-songwriter, musician, record producer, author and actor. Earle began his career as a songwriter in Nashville and released his first EP in 1982.
1955 – Steve Javie, American basketball player and referee. Steve Javie (born January 17, 1955) is an American retired professional basketball referee who refereed in the National Basketball Association (NBA) from the 1986–87 NBA season to the 2010–11 season.
1953 – Jeff Berlin, American bass player and educator. Jeffrey Arthur Berlin (born January 17, 1953) is an American jazz fusion bassist.
1952 – Darrell Porter, American baseball player and sportscaster (d. 2002), was an American professional baseball player. He played as a catcher in Major League Baseball from 1971 to 1987 for the Milwaukee Brewers, Kansas City Royals, St.
1950 – Luis López Nieves, Puerto Rican-American author and academic. He published two other books including Seva, and Writing for Rafa.
1949 – Andy Kaufman, American actor and comedian (d. 1984), was an American entertainer, actor, writer, wrestler and performance artist. While often called a comedian, Kaufman described himself instead as a "song and dance man".
1949 – Anita Borg, American computer scientist and academic (d. 2003). She founded the Institute for Women and Technology and the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing.
1943 – Chris Montez, American singer-songwriter and guitarist. Chris Montez (born Ezekiel Christopher Montanez on January 17, 1943) is an American guitarist and vocalist, whose stylistic approach has ranged from rock & roll to pop standards and Latin music.
1942 – Muhammad Ali, American boxer and activist (d. 2016), was an American professional boxer, activist, and philanthropist. Nicknamed "The Greatest," he is widely regarded as one of the most significant and celebrated sports figures of the 20th century and as one of the greatest boxers of all time.
1939 – Maury Povich, American talk show host and producer. Maurice Richard Povich (born January 17, 1939) is an American television personality, best known for hosting the tabloid talk show Maury.
1938 – John Bellairs, American author and academic (d. 1991), was an American author, best known for his fantasy novel The Face in the Frost and many gothic mystery novels for young adults featuring the characters Lewis Barnavelt, Rose Rita Pottinger, Anthony Monday, and Johnny Dixon.
1935 – Ruth Ann Minner, American businesswoman and politician, 72nd Governor of Delaware. She is a member of the Democratic Party who served in the Delaware General Assembly, as the 23rd Lieutenant Governor of Delaware, and the 72nd (and first female) Governor of Delaware from 2001 to 2009.
1934 – Donald Cammell, Scottish-American director and screenwriter (d. 1996), was a Scottish painter, screenwriter, and film director. He has a cult reputation largely due to his debut film Performance, which he wrote the screenplay for and co-directed with Nicolas Roeg.
1933 – Shari Lewis, American actress, puppeteer/ventriloquist, and television host (d. 1998), was an American ventriloquist, puppeteer, children's entertainer and television show host. She was best known as the original puppeteer of the sock puppet Lamb Chop, first appearing on Captain Kangaroo in March 1956 and then Hi Mom, a local morning television show that aired on WRCA-TV (now WNBC-TV) in New York City.
1932 – Sheree North, American actress and dancer (d. 2005), was an American actress, dancer and singer, known for being one of 20th Century-Fox's intended successors to Marilyn Monroe.
1931 – Don Zimmer, American baseball player, coach, and manager (d. 2014). Donald William Zimmer (January 17, 1931 – June 4, 2014) was an American infielder, manager, and coach in Major League Baseball (MLB).
1931 – Douglas Wilder, American sergeant and politician, 66th Governor of Virginia. He was the first African American to serve as governor of a U.S. state since Reconstruction, and the first elected African-American governor.
1931 – James Earl Jones, American actor. Since his Broadway debut in 1957, Jones has won many awards, including a Tony Award for his role in The Great White Hope, which also earned him a Golden Globe Award and an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor in a Leading Role for the film version of the play.
1928 – Vidal Sassoon, English-American hairdresser and businessman (d. 2012), was a British-American hairstylist, businessman, and philanthropist. He was noted for repopularising a simple, close-cut geometric hair style called the bob cut, worn by famous fashion designers including Mary Quant and film stars such as Mia Farrow, Goldie Hawn, Cameron Diaz, Nastassja Kinski and Helen Mirren.
1927 – E. W. Swackhamer, American director and producer (d. 1994). W." Swackhamer Jr. (January 17, 1927 – December 5, 1994) was an American television and film director.
1927 – Eartha Kitt, American actress and singer (d. 2008), was an American singer, actress, dancer, comedian, activist, author, and songwriter known for her highly distinctive singing style and her 1953 recordings of "C'est si bon" and the Christmas novelty song "Santa Baby", both of which reached the top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100. Orson Welles once called her the "most exciting woman in the world".
1927 – Harlan Mathews, American lawyer and politician (d. 2014), was a Democratic United States Senator from Tennessee from 1993 to 1994. He had previously served in the executive and legislative branches of state government in Tennessee for more than 40 years beginning in 1950.
1927 – Thomas Anthony Dooley III, American physician and humanitarian (d. 1961), was an American physician who worked in Southeast Asia at the outset of American involvement in the Vietnam War. While serving as a physician in the United States Navy and afterwards, he became celebrated for his humanitarian and anti-communist political activities up until his early death from cancer.
1926 – Newton N. Minow, American lawyer and politician. Newton Norman "Newt" Minow (born January 17, 1926) is an American attorney and former Chair of the Federal Communications Commission.
1925 – Gunnar Birkerts, Latvian-American architect (d. 2017), was a Latvian American architect who, for most of his career, was based in the metropolitan area of Detroit, Michigan.
1925 – Robert Cormier, American author and journalist (d. 2000), was an American author and journalist, known for his deeply pessimistic novels, many of which were written for young adults. Recurring themes include abuse, mental illness, violence, revenge, betrayal, and conspiracy.
1924 – Jewel Plummer Cobb, American biologist, cancer researcher, and academic (d. 2017), was an American biologist, cancer researcher, professor, dean, and academic administrator. She contributed to the field of cancer research by studying the cure for melanoma.
1922 – Betty White, American actress, game show panelist, television personality, and animal rights activist. Betty Marion White Ludden (née White; born January 17, 1922) is an American actress and comedian, with the longest television career of any entertainer, spanning 80 years.
1922 – Nicholas Katzenbach, American soldier, lawyer, and politician, 65th United States Attorney General (d. 2012), was an American lawyer who served as United States Attorney General during the Lyndon B. Johnson administration.
1918 – George M. Leader, American soldier and politician, 36th Governor of Pennsylvania (d. 2013), was an American politician. He served as the 36th Governor of Pennsylvania from January 18, 1955 until January 20, 1959.
1916 – Peter Frelinghuysen Jr., American lieutenant and politician (d. 2011), was an American politician. He represented New Jersey's fifth congressional district in the United States House of Representatives as a Republican from 1953 to 1975.
1914 – Irving Brecher, American director, producer, and screenwriter (d. 2008). Brecher (January 17, 1914 – November 17, 2008) was a screenwriter who wrote for the Marx Brothers among many others; he was the only writer to get sole credit on a Marx Brothers film, penning the screenplays for At the Circus (1939) and Go West (1940).
1911 – George Stigler, American economist and academic, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1991), was an American economist, the 1982 laureate in Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences and a key leader of the Chicago School of Economics.
1911 – John S. McCain Jr., American admiral (d. 1981), was a United States Navy admiral who served in conflicts from the 1940s through the 1970s, including as the Commander, United States Pacific Command.
1908 – Cus D'Amato, American boxing manager and trainer (d. 1985), was an American boxing manager and trainer who handled the careers of Mike Tyson, Floyd Patterson, and José Torres; all went on to become members of the International Boxing Hall of Fame. Several successful boxing trainers, including Teddy Atlas and Kevin Rooney were tutored by D'Amato.
1905 – Peggy Gilbert, American saxophonist and bandleader (d. 2007), was an American jazz saxophonist and bandleader.
1905 – Ray Cunningham, American baseball player (d. 2005), was an American third baseman in Major League Baseball who played for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1931 and 1932.
1901 – Aron Gurwitsch, Lithuanian-American philosopher and author (d. 1973), was a Litvak American phenomenologist.
1899 – Al Capone, American mob boss (d. 1947), was an American gangster and businessman who attained notoriety during the Prohibition era as the co-founder and boss of the Chicago Outfit. His seven-year reign as crime boss ended when he went to prison at age 33.
1899 – Robert Maynard Hutchins, American philosopher and academic (d. 1977), was an American educational philosopher. He was president (1929–1945) and chancellor (1945–1951) of the University of Chicago, and earlier dean of Yale Law School (1927–1929).
1886 – Glenn L. Martin, American pilot and businessman, founded the Glenn L. Martin Company (d. 1955), was an early American aviation pioneer. He designed and built his own aircraft and was an active pilot, as well as an aviation record-holder.
1882 – Noah Beery, Sr., American actor (d. 1946), was an American actor who appeared in films from 1913 to 1945. He was the older brother of Academy Award-winning actor Wallace Beery and the father of character actor Noah Beery Jr.
1880 – Mack Sennett, Canadian-American actor, director, and producer (d. 1960), was a Canadian-American film actor, director, and producer, and studio head, known as the King of Comedy.
1876 – Frank Hague, American lawyer and politician, 30th Mayor of Jersey City (d. 1956), was an American Democratic Party politician who served as the Mayor of Jersey City, New Jersey from 1917 to 1947, Democratic National Committeeman from New Jersey from 1922 until 1949, and Vice-Chairman of the Democratic National Committee from 1924 until 1949.
1867 – Carl Laemmle, German-born American film producer, co-founded Universal Studios (d. 1939), was a German-American filmmaker and the founder and, until 1934, owner of Universal Pictures. He produced or worked on over 400 films.
1857 – Eugene Augustin Lauste, French-American engineer (d. 1935), was a French inventor instrumental in the technological development of the history of cinema.
1853 – T. Alexander Harrison, American painter and academic (d. 1930), was an American marine painter who spent most of his career in France.
1851 – A. B. Frost, American author and illustrator (d. 1928). Arthur Burdett Frost (January 17, 1851 – June 22, 1928), usually cited as A.
1832 – Henry Martyn Baird, American historian and academic (d. 1906), was an American historian and educator. He is best known as a historian of the Huguenots.
1828 – Lewis A. Grant, American lawyer and general, Medal of Honor recipient (d. 1918), was a teacher, lawyer, soldier in the Union Army during the American Civil War, and later United States Assistant Secretary of War. He was among the leading officers from the state of Vermont, and received the Medal of Honor for "personal gallantry and intrepidity."
1793 – Antonio José Martínez, Spanish-American priest, rancher and politician (d. 1867), was a New Mexican priest, educator, publisher, rancher, farmer, community leader, and politician. He lived through and influenced three distinct periods of New Mexico's history: the Spanish period, the Mexican period, and the American occupation and subsequent territorial period.
1719 – William Vernon, American businessman (d. 1806), was a New England trader who played a leading role in the Continental Congress' maritime activities during the American Revolution. As president of the Eastern Navy Board during the Revolution, he was responsible for building and outfitting the ships of the Continental Navy.
1706 – Benjamin Franklin, American publisher, inventor, and politician, 6th President of Pennsylvania (d. 1790). Benjamin Franklin FRS FRSA FRSE (January 17, 1706 [O.S.
1640 – Jonathan Singletary Dunham, American settler (d. 1724), was a prominent early American settler of Woodbridge Township, New Jersey, who built the first gristmill in New Jersey. He is U.S.
2017 – Tirrel Burton, 86, American football player and coach (b. 1929)
2014 – John J. McGinty III, American captain, Medal of Honor recipient (b. 1940)
2012 – Ernie Alexander, American educator and politician (b. 1933)
2012 – Johnny Otis, American singer-songwriter and producer (b. 1921)
2012 – Marty Springstead, American baseball player and umpire (b. 1937)
2011 – Don Kirshner, American songwriter and producer (b. 1934)
2010 – Erich Segal, American author and screenwriter (b. 1937)
2010 – Gaines Adams, American football player (b. 1983)
2008 – Bobby Fischer, American chess player and author (b. 1943)
2008 – Ernie Holmes, American football player, wrestler, and actor (b. 1948)
2007 – Art Buchwald, American journalist and author (b. 1925)
2005 – Albert Schatz, American microbiologist and academic (b. 1920)
2005 – Virginia Mayo, American actress, singer, and dancer (b. 1920)
2004 – Harry Brecheen, American baseball player and coach (b. 1914)
2004 – Noble Willingham, American actor (b. 1931)
2004 – Ray Stark, American film producer (b. 1915)
2003 – Richard Crenna, American actor (b. 1926)
1997 – Clyde Tombaugh, American astronomer and academic, discovered Pluto (b. 1906)
1996 – Barbara Jordan, American lawyer and politician (b. 1936)
1994 – Helen Stephens, American runner, shot putter, and discus thrower (b. 1918)
1972 – Betty Smith, American author and playwright (b. 1896)
1970 – Simon Kovar, Russian-American bassoon player and educator (b. 1890)
1952 – Walter Briggs Sr., American businessman (b. 1877)
1933 – Louis Comfort Tiffany, American stained glass artist (b. 1848)
1927 – Juliette Gordon Low, American founder of the Girl Scouts of the USA (b. 1860)
1893 – Rutherford B. Hayes, American general, lawyer, and politician, 19th President of the United States (b. 1822)
1891 – George Bancroft, American historian and politician, 17th United States Secretary of the Navy (b. 1800)
1718 – Benjamin Church, American colonel (b. 1639)