This Day in History - November 30
Winston Churchill is born 1874
Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill, the British leader who guided Great Britain and the Allies through the crisis of World War II, is born at Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire, England.
Churchill came from a prestigious family with a long history of military service and joined the British Fourth Hussars upon his father’s death in 1895. During the next five years, he enjoyed an illustrious military career, serving in India, the Sudan, and South Africa, and distinguishing himself several times in battle. In 1899, he resigned his commission to concentrate on his literary and political career and in 1900 was elected to Parliament as a Conservative MP from Oldham. In 1904, he joined the Liberals, serving in a number of important posts before being appointed Britain’s First Lord of the Admiralty in 1911, where he worked to bring the British navy to a readiness for the war he foresaw.
In 1915, in the second year of World War I, Churchill was held responsible for the disastrous Dardanelles and Gallipoli campaigns, and he was excluded from the war coalition government. He resigned and volunteered to command an infantry battalion in France. However, in 1917, he returned to politics as a cabinet member in the Liberal government of Lloyd George. From 1919 to 1921, he was secretary of state for war and in 1924 returned to the Conservative Party, where two years later he played a leading role in the defeat of the General Strike of 1926. Out of office from 1929 to 1939, Churchill issued unheeded warnings of the threat of German and Japanese aggression.
After the outbreak of World War II in Europe, Churchill was called back to his post as First Lord of the Admiralty and eight months later replaced the ineffectual Neville Chamberlain as prime minister of a new coalition government. In the first year of his administration, Britain stood alone against Nazi Germany, but Churchill promised his country and the world that the British people would “never surrender.” He rallied the British people to a resolute resistance and expertly orchestrated Franklin D. Roosevelt and Joseph Stalin into an alliance that eventually crushed the Axis.
In July 1945, 10 weeks after Germany’s defeat, his Conservative government suffered an electoral loss against Clement Attlee’s Labour Party, and Churchill resigned as prime minister. He became leader of the opposition and in 1951 was again elected prime minister. Two years later, he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II and awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature for his six-volume historical study of World War II and for his political speeches. In 1955, he retired as prime minister but remained in Parliament until 1964, the year before his death.
Meteorite strikes Alabama woman 1954
The first modern instance of a meteorite striking a human being occurs at Sylacauga, Alabama, when a meteorite crashes through the roof of a house and into a living room, bounces off a radio, and strikes a woman on the hip. The victim, Mrs. Elizabeth Hodges, was sleeping on a couch at the time of impact. The space rock was a sulfide meteorite weighing 8.5 pounds and measuring seven inches in length. Mrs. Hodges was not permanently injured but suffered a nasty bruise along her hip and leg.
Ancient Chinese records tell of people being injured or killed by falling meteorites, but the Sylacauga meteorite was the first modern record of this type of human injury. In 1911, a dog in Egypt was killed by the Nakhla meteorite.
Elton John’s Greatest Hits hits #1 1974
On November 30, 1974, Elton John’s Greatest Hits began a 10-week run atop the Billboard 200 pop album chart on its way to selling more than 24 million copies worldwide.
Elton John was born and raised as Reginald Dwight in suburban London, and if you’d rearranged his DNA or his childhood environment just a bit, he might have become an RAF fighter pilot instead of one of the biggest pop stars of all time. His father, Stanley, wanted young Reginald to follow his footsteps into the British military, but his mother Shirley Dwight’s Elvis Presley records sparked his interest in rock and roll, and her uncritical devotion made it possible for the bespectacled boy to pursue his dream of rock stardom without discouragement. And he displayed remarkable tenacity in pursuing that dream, even to the point of ruining his vision by wearing a pair of Buddy Holly-style eyeglasses until his eyes adjusted to their strong prescription.
An accomplished pianist with a gift for composing original melodies, Reg Dwight toured extensively with a band called Bluesology while still a teenager in the mid-1960s, but his path toward stardom really began when he landed a 9-to-5 songwriting job at DJM Records in 1967 and was paired with a lyricist named Bernie Taupin. Taking the stage-name Elton John in 1969, Dwight began recording original material written with Taupin while still turning out bland, commercial ballads by the hundreds as part of his day job. His debut album, Empty Sky (1969) failed to catch on in the UK and was not released in the United States until years later, but his follow-up, Elton John (1970), was a breakthrough smash thanks to “Your Song,” his first top-20 hit on both sides of the Atlantic.
Over the next four years, John would produce new material at a rate that is utterly astonishing by today’s standards. Prior to the November 1974 release of Elton John’s Greatest Hits, he released six full-length studio albums—Tumbleweed Connection (1970), Madman Across the Water (1971), Honky Château (1972), Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only the Piano Player (1973), Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (1973) and Caribou (1974)—and scored 14 American top 40 hits, 10 of which were included on the greatest-hits album that reached #1 on this day in 1974.
Over the subsequent decades of his phenomenal career, Elton John would release two further volumes of greatest hits, sell tens of millions of albums worldwide and establish an American chart record that may never be equaled by placing at least one hit on the Billboard Top 40 in each of 30 consecutive years from 1970 through 1999.