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Born February 21

Rue McClanahan struck comedy gold as Blanche Devereaux on The Golden Girls from 1985 to 1992. She began her stage career in 1957, and trained at The Actors Studio in New York before making her Broadway debut in 1969. She found her first television success on the daytime soap Another World, and moved to prime time in 1972 on Maude, alongside future Golden Girl Bea Arthur. McLanahan appeared on dozens of television shows and in films during her long career. In 1987, she took home the Emmy for outstanding lead actress in a comedy. We remember McClanahan's life today as well as the lives of other notable people who were born this day in history.

Click to discover notable people who died this day in history including civil rights icon Malcolm X.

1962: David Foster Wallace, U.S. author known best for his novel Infinite Jest, is born in Ithaca, New York.

David Foster Wallace (Keith Bedford/Getty Images Entertainment)Wallace's first novel, The Broom of the System, gained national attention in 1987 for its ambition and offbeat humor, according to his obituary by The Associated Press. The New York Times said the 24-year-old author "attempts to give us a portrait, through a combination of Joycean word games, literary parody and zany picaresque adventure, of a contemporary America run amok." Published in 1996, Infinite Jest cemented Wallace's reputation as a major American literary figure. The 1,000-plus-page tome, praised for its complexity and dark wit, topped many best-of lists. Time Magazine named Infinite Jest in its issue of the "100 Best English-language Novels from 1923 to 2005." Read more

 

 

1951: Vince Welnick, U.S. keyboardist who played with the Tubes and the Grateful Dead, is born in Phoenix, Arizona.

Welnick was the last in a long line of Grateful Dead keyboardists, several of whom died prematurely, leading some of the group's fans to conclude that the position came with a curse, according to his obituary by The Associated Press. He had replaced Brent Mydland, who died of a drug overdose in 1990. Mydland had succeeded Keith Godchaux, who died in a car crash shortly after leaving the band. Godchaux had replaced the band's original keyboard player, Ron "Pigpen" McKernan, a heavy drinker who died in 1973 at age 27. Read more

 

 

 

1950: Larry Drake, U.S. actor best known for his role as Benny on the TV series "L.A. Law," is born in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

1946: Alan Rickman, English actor known best for his roles in the movies Die Hard and Harry Potter, is born in London, England.

Rickman's longest-running role was the one that many audiences most associated him with: Professor Severus Snape of the Harry Potter film series. Rickman was a major player in all eight of the movies, debuting in 2001 and coming to an emotional finale in 2011. He was hand-picked by author J.K. Rowling to portray the multifaceted character. Read more

 

 

 

1936: Barbara Jordan, U.S. politician who represented Texas in the U.S. House of Representatives and the first African-American woman to give the keynote speech at a Democratic National Convention, is born in Houston, Texas.

1934: Rue McClanahan, U.S. actress known best for roles in Maude, Mama's Family and The Golden Girls, is born in Healdton, Oklahoma.

On ThRue McClanahan (Wikimedia Commons)e Golden Girls, McClanahan played Blanche Devereaux, the southern belle with an appetite for men. The character took a lot of ribbing – not all of it good-natured – from her housemates about her active love life. But she also showed us something that hadn't been covered much on TV at that time: Romance doesn't just end when you hit 40 … or 50 … or 60. Single women viewing the show must have felt empowered to see a woman who didn't turn in her "sex card" when she turned 50 and didn't lose her romantic appeal just because she lost her husband. Blanche was liberated and free, unashamed about her active love life, and a lot of fun. McClanahan portrayed her perfectly – so much so that she won an Emmy in 1987 for the role. Read more

 

 

1933: Nina Simone, U.S. singer and pianist known for recordings including "My Baby Just Cares for Me" and "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood," is born in Tryon, North Carolina.

Simone had a voice like no other. Her rich, low tenor was rare among women – we usually expect high and light tones from female singers – but Simone made her low range soar. And she was more than a singer: She was also a classically trained pianist, using both skills in her marvelous recordings. Read more

 

 

 

1927: Erma Bombeck, U.S. humorist who wrote the popular newspaper column "At Wit's End" as well as books including The Grass Is Always Greener Over the Septic Tank and Aunt Erma's Cope Book, is born in Bellbrook, Ohio.

"Don't tell me about the scientific advances of the 20th century. So men are planning a trip to the moon. So computers run every large industry in America. So body organs are being transplanted like perennials. Big deal! You show me a washer that will launder a pair of socks and return them to you as a pair, and I'll light a firecracker." – Erma Bombeck Read more

 

 

 

1925: Sam Peckinpah, U.S. film director and screenwriter known for movies including The Wild Bunch and Straw Dogs, is born in Fresno, California.

1915: Ann Sheridan, U.S. actress whose notable movies include The Man Who Came to Dinner and Kings Row, is born in Denton, Texas.

1907: W.H. Auden, English-American poet known best for poems including "Funeral Blues," is born in York, England.

1903: Anaïs Nin, Cuban-American author of works including Delta of Venus and Little Birds, is born in Neuilly-sur-Seine, France.

1821: Charles Scribner, U.S. businessman who founded the publishing house Charles Scribner's Sons, is born in New York, New York.

Click to discover notable people who died this day in history including civil rights icon Malcolm X.