Today in History: May 18

Today is Monday, May 18, the 138th day of 2015. There are 227 days left in the year.

Today’s Highlight in History:

On May 18, 1980, the Mount St. Helens volcano in Washington state exploded, leaving 57 people dead or missing.

On this date:

In 1642, the Canadian city of Montreal was founded by French colonists.

In 1765, about one-fourth of Montreal was destroyed by a fire.

In 1896, the Supreme Court, in Plessy v. Ferguson, endorsed “separate but equal” racial segregation, a concept renounced 58 years later in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka.

In 1910, Halley’s Comet passed by earth, brushing it with its tail.

In 1926, evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson vanished while visiting a beach in Venice, California. (McPherson reappeared more than a month later, saying she’d escaped after being kidnapped and held for ransom.)

In 1933, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed a measure creating the Tennessee Valley Authority.

In 1934, Congress approved, and President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed, the so-called “Lindbergh Act,” providing for the death penalty in cases of interstate kidnapping.

In 1944, during World War II, Allied forces finally occupied Monte Cassino in Italy after a four-month struggle with Axis troops.

In 1953, Jacqueline Cochran became the first woman to break the sound barrier as she piloted a Canadair F-86 Sabre jet over Rogers Dry Lake, California.

In 1969, astronauts Eugene A. Cernan, Thomas P. Stafford and John W. Young blasted off aboard Apollo 10 on a mission to orbit the moon.

In 1973, Harvard law professor Archibald Cox was appointed Watergate special prosecutor by U.S. Attorney General Elliot Richardson.

In 1995, ballet dancer Alexander Godunov was found dead at his West Hollywood, California, home at age 45. Actress Elizabeth Montgomery, 62, died in Los Angeles.

Ten years ago: President George W. Bush offered his unqualified support for Egypt’s political reform process as he received Prime Minister Ahmed Nazief at the White House.

Five years ago: Grilled by skeptical lawmakers, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar acknowledged his agency had been lax in overseeing offshore drilling activities, and that might have contributed to the disastrous oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. A suicide bomber detonated his vehicle near a U.S. convoy in Afghanistan, killing 18 people, including six troops — five from the U.S., one from Canada. Following a 2009 party switch, Sen. Arlen Specter was defeated in Pennsylvania’s Democratic primary, ending his re-election bid.

One year ago: AT&T Inc. agreed to buy satellite TV provider DirecTV for $48.5 billion, or $95 per share (completion of the deal is pending government approval). Singer Jerry Vale, 83, died in Palm Desert, California. Cinematographer Gordon Willis (“The Godfather,” “Annie Hall” and “All the President’s Men”) died on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, at age 82.

Today’s Birthdays: Actor Bill Macy is 93. Actress Priscilla Pointer is 91. Hall-of-Fame sportscaster Jack Whitaker is 91. Actor Robert Morse is 84. Actor Dwayne Hickman is 81. Baseball Hall-of-Famer Brooks Robinson is 78. Actress Candice Azzara is 74. Bluegrass singer-musician Rodney Dillard (The Dillards) is 73. Baseball Hall-of-Famer Reggie Jackson is 69. Country singer Joe Bonsall (The Oak Ridge Boys) is 67. Rock musician Rick Wakeman (Yes) is 66. Rock singer Mark Mothersbaugh (Devo) is 65. Actor James Stephens is 64. Country singer George Strait is 63. Rhythm-and-blues singer Butch Tavares (Tavares) is 62. Actor Chow Yun-Fat is 60. Rock singer-musician Page Hamilton is 55. Contemporary Christian musician Barry Graul (MercyMe) is 54. Contemporary Christian singer Michael Tait is 49. Singer-actress Martika is 46. Comedian-writer Tina Fey is 45. Rapper Special Ed is 41. Rock singer Jack Johnson is 40. Country singer David Nail is 36. Rhythm-and-blues singer Darryl Allen (Mista) is 35. Actor Matt Long is 35. Actor Allen Leech is 34. Christian-rock musician Kevin Huguley (Rush of Fools) is 33. Christian singer Francesca Battistelli is 30. Actor Spencer Breslin is 23.

Thought for Today: “A conference is a gathering of people who singly can do nothing, but together can decide that nothing can be done.” — Fred Allen, comedian (1894-1956).