The Eighties Club
The Politics and Pop Culture of the 1980s
Table of Contents     1980   1981   1982   1984   1985   1986   1987   1988   1989
A photo taken seconds after the bombing
of the Marine barracks in Beirut

1/3 -- Michael Jackson's album Thriller makes Billboard's Top Ten, where it will remain for 78 weeks.

1/21 -- The Reagan administration assures Congress that El Salvador has improved its human rights record and so qualifies for more aid. Some human rights organizations disagree.

2/16 -- Brushfires sweep through southeastern Australia, burning for four days and killing 71 people in one of the worst natural disasters in Australian history.

2/17 -- Sen. Gary Hart of Colorado announces his candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination. Four days later, Walter Mondale, former Vice-president, declares he is a candidate.

2/24 -- A congressional committee reports that the World War II internment of Japanese-Americans was a grave injustice.

2/25 -- Famous playwright Tennessee Williams dies in New York when he accidently swallows a plastic bottle cap.

2/28 -- The final episode of M*A*S*H gets a 60.2 rating, with over 125 million viewers, to become the most watched TV series episode to date.

3/8 -- President Reagan calls the USSR the "focus of evil in the modern world" in a speech to an evangelical group in Orlando, FL.

3/9 -- Anne Burford resigns as head of the Environmental Protection Agency; she had been cited for contempt of Congress as a result of her refusal to turn over files relating to toxic waste regulations.

3/23 -- In a nationally televised speech, President Reagan proposes the Strategic Defense Initiative, a space-based defense system. Some scientists doubt the system's feasibility, and political opponents derisively label it "Star Wars."

3/31 -- President Reagan refuses to approve the sale of F-16 fighter planes to Israel until it has withdrawn its troops from Lebanon.

4/1 -- In Great Britain, protesters form a 14-mile human chain in a demonstration against the planned NATO deployment of Pershing II and cruise missiles in Europe.

4/12 -- Harold Washington becomes Chicago's first black mayor after a narrow victory over his Republican opponent.

4/18 -- A truck bomb driven into the U.S. embassy in Beirut kills 17 Americans and 46 Lebanese.

4/20 -- President Reagan signs legislation designed to reform the Social Security system and secure its long-term solvency by balancing income and expenditures. Cost-of-living increases are delayed for six months, payroll deductions are increased, and the minimum retirement age will be raised gradually to 67.

5/1 -- Tens of thousands take to the streets in 20 Polish cities to clash with police in a protest against the Communist government's policies.

5/3 -- Meeting in Chicago, 238 American Catholic bishops approve a pastoral letter calling for a halt in the development, production and deployment of nuclear weapons. The U.S. House Committee on Intelligence votes to cut off funds for all covert operations against Nicaragua.

5/24 -- The U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services declares AIDS the nation's top medical priority.

6/9 -- In Britain's parliamentary elections, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher is returned to the office she has held since 1979 as the Conservative Party wins a solid victory.

6/15 -- The U.S. Supreme Court reaffirms the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision with a ruling that limit a state's power to restrict access to legal abortions.

6/16 -- A federal commission recommends that the U.S. government compensate the 60,000 surviving Japanese-Americans who were placed in detention camps during World War II.

6/18 -- Physicist Sally Ride becomes the first woman in space as part of the crew of the space shuttle Challenger's second flight.

6/28 -- The U.S. Supreme Court rules that a sentence of life imprisonment without chance of parole is unconstitutional.

7/4 -- Rev. Jerry Falwell describes AIDS as a "gay plague."

7/20 -- Peter Jennings becomes ABC's evening news anchor after Frank Reynolds dies.

7/21 -- In Poland, martial law is lifted at midnight and a partial amnesty is granted to most political prisoners. However, the Communist-controlled parliament has given the government sweeping new powers.

8/2 -- The New York Times reports that the poverty rate rose to 15% in 1982, the highest it's been in nearly 20 years.

8/5 -- A federal district judge orders the break-up of AT&T.

8/16 -- The U.S. Justice Department admits that it used Gestapo chieftain Klaus Barbie as a paid spy following World War II and helped the war criminal escape to South America.

8/21 -- Benigno Aquino, leader of the opposition to Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos, is assassinated when he returns to Manila from the U.S. following heart surgery. Though the assassin is immediately gunned down, many suspect the government of being behind the killing.

9/1 -- 269 people are killed when Korean Airlines Flight 007 is shot down by a fighter jet firing an air-to-air missile after it enters Soviet airspace near Sakhalin Island in the North Pacific. Moscow insists the passenger jet was a disguised American spy plane. American and Japanese attempts to recover the flight's "black box" are unsuccessful.

9/15 -- Israel's Prime Minister Menachem Begin resigns. Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir, 67, succeeds him as leader of the Herat party.

9/17 -- Vanessa Williams becomes the first black Miss America.

10/5 -- Lech Walesa, leader of Poland's Solidarity, the outlawed federation of trade unions, is awarded the 1983 Nobel Peace Prize.

10/9 -- North Korean terrorists detonate a bomb at Rangoon's Martyr's Mausoleum, slaying four cabinet ministers and the ambassador to Burma. South Korea's president, Chun Doo Hwan, would have been present but for the fact that he was running behind schedule.

10/9 -- U.S. Secretary of the Interior James G. Watt resigns after making the comment that his coal advisory commission consists of "a black, a woman, two Jews, and a cripple."

10/12 -- A former Japanese prime minister, Kakuel Tanaka, is convicted in Tokyo of accepting a $2.2 million bribe from Lockheed Corp. to persuade All Nippon Airways to use Lockheed Tristar jets.

10/12 -- Granada's Deputy Prime Minister Bernard Coard, a hardline Marxist, leads a coup that ousts Prime Minister Maurice Bishop. Bishop and most of his cabinet will be executed a week later. The U.S. is concerned by increasingly close ties between Granada and Cuba as well as the construction of a 10,000-foot runway that could be used by Soviet and Cuban military and cargo aircraft.

10/22 -- Two million people participate throughout Europe in protests against the NATO deployment of Pershing II and cruise missiles.

10/23 -- A truck bomb destroys the Marines barracks at Beirut International Airport, killing 241 American soldiers.

10/25 -- U.S. Marines and Rangers invade the Caribbean island of Grenada after hardline Marxists overthrow and execute Prime Minister Maurice Bishop (see above). The invasion occurs with the support of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States but the UN condemns it as a violation of international law. There are 3,000 American troops involved along with 300 soldiers from Antigua, Barbados, Dominica and Jamaica, among other Caribbean nations.

11/2 -- President Reagan signs into law a bill making Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday a national holiday beginning in 1986.

11/4 -- A suicide truck bomber blows up an Israeli military installation in Lebanon, killing 60, including 28 Israelis.

11/26 -- Three gunmen abscond with $39 million in gold at London's Heathrow Airport.

12/1 -- Rita Lavelle of the Environmental Protection Agency is convicted of three counts of perjury and obstructing a congressional investigation into toxic waste cleanup.

12/6 -- Anthony Black, an employee of Brinks-Mat Ltd., is charged by Scotland Yard with involvement in the theft of about $38 million worth of gold, diamonds and platinum, the largest heist in British history.

12/17 -- IRA terrorists explode a car bomb outside Harrod's department store in London, killing five persons and injuring 91.

12/31 -- Gen. Mohammed Bubari leads a military coup that overthrow's Nigeria's President Alhaji Shehu Shagan, ending that country's five years of democratic government.

This year...Argentina's 8-year-old military regime collapses following a disastrous war with Britain over the Falkland Islands, and the moderate Raul Ricardo Alfousin wins election as president.....In February, the immigration of Muslims from Bangladesh sparks a riot in India's state of Assam, leaving 600 dead..... The Dow Jones Industrial Average ends the year with a record high of 1258.64, up from 1046.54 a year ago.....The U.S. Census Bureau reports that 35.3 million Americans live in poverty, the highest number in 19 years.....In the biggest governmental failure in American history, Washington State's Public Power Supply System defaults on $2.25 billion in municipal bonds.....Crack -- low-priced and highly addictive crystallized cocaine -- begins to appear on the West Coast.....Chicago motorists are the first to begin using cellphones, which cost $3,000 plus a monthly service fee of $150.....Former journalist William Kennedy writes Ironweed; Paul Johnson writes Modern Times.....The Australia II defeats Liberty 4 races to 3 to win the America's Cup for Australia; the Cup had been held by the U.S. since 1851.....New York's new AT&T and IBM Buildings on Madison Avenue are completed.....The 800-mile Kara Kum Canal drains the Aral Sea by one-third, doubling its salinity and killing most aquatic life; wind distributes pesticide-contaminated dust and salt from the exposed sea bottom on surrounding fields, poisoning water supplies and creating an ecological disaster in the Soviet Union.....The American heartland suffers the worst drought since 1936.....An El Nino off the coasts of Peru and Ecuador upset worldwide weather patterns .....American soft drink manufacturers start using Nutrasweet in combination with saccharine.