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Born February 27

Screen legend Elizabeth Taylor once said, "Everything makes me nervous – except making films," and making films was something at which she excelled. The two-time Oscar-winner spent six decades in front of the camera, taking on roles as diverse as Cleopatra and Maggie Simpson. Her personal life fueled gossip rags for years, thanks to her seven marriages, but she was equally well-known for her philanthropic work, especially in raising awareness of and raising research funds for HIV and AIDS. We remember Taylor'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 Star Trek legend Leonard Nimoy.

1951: Lee Atwater, U.S. political consultant who was an adviser to Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, is born in Atlanta, Georgia.

1945: Carl Anderson, U.S. actor and singer who played Judas in Jesus Christ Superstar on Broadway and on film, is born in Lynchburg, Virginia.

1943: Mary Frann, U.S. actress known best for her role as Bob Newhart's wife, Joanna Loudon, on the TV series Newhart, is born in St. Louis, Missouri.

1932: Elizabeth Taylor, English-American actress known for roles in movies including Cleopatra, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, is born in London, England.

Child star, Oscar-winning actress, entrepreneur, style maven, activist and humanitarian, she was also a mother, wife (married eight times, including twice to Richard Burton) and devoted pal whose famous friends included Rock Hudson, Elton John, Michael Jackson, Sharon Stone and Debbie Reynolds (though the two famously fell out when Taylor married Reynolds' husband Eddie Fisher, they revived their friendship later in life). Read more

 

 

 

1923: Dexter Gordon, U.S. jazz saxophonist known for his bebop style, is born in Los Angeles, California.

1921: Theodore Van Kirk, U.S. soldier who was the last surviving member of the Enola Gay crew that dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan, is born in Northumberland, Pennsylvania.

Theodore VanKirk (AP Photo/The Macon Telegraph, Beau Cabell, File)"I honestly believe the use of the atomic bomb saved lives in the long run. There were a lot of lives saved. Most of the lives saved were Japanese," Van Kirk said. But it also made him wary of war. "The whole World War II experience shows that wars don't settle anything. And atomic weapons don't settle anything," he said. "I personally think there shouldn't be any atomic bombs in the world — I'd like to see them all abolished. But if anyone has one," he added, "I want to have one more than my enemy." Read more

 

 

 

1907: Mildred Bailey, U.S. jazz singer known as the Queen of Swing, is born in Tekoa, Washington.

Bailey has long been considered a white woman: In the New Grove Dictionary of Jazz, she is described as "the first white singer to absorb and master the jazz-flavored phrasing ... of her black contemporaries." But the Coeur d'Alene tribe of Native Americans wants to change that perception and let the world know that Bailey was, in fact, Native American. Born in 1907 to a Coeur d'Alene mother, Bailey spent her childhood on a reservation. But when she left at age 13 – and moved a few years later to Seattle to pursue a singing career – she may have felt she needed to downplay her heritage in order to succeed. Just as black entertainers of the day were confronted with extreme prejudice and racism, so too were Native Americans. Read more

 

 

1902: John Steinbeck, U.S. author of well-known books including The Grapes of Wrath and Of Mice and Men, is born in Salinas, California.

SteinbJohn Steinbeck (Wikimedia Commons/Nobel Foundation)eck considered 1952's East of Eden to be his greatest novel: "I think everything else I have written has been, in a sense, practice for this." The story follows the intertwined lives of the Hamilton and Trask families through years of their life in California's Salinas Valley, paralleling the biblical story of Cain and Abel. The movie, released just three years after the book, starred James Dean in one of his most iconic roles. He played Cal Trask, the Cain figure of the story's allegory. While Dean didn't win an Oscar for his role, he was nominated – as were Elia Kazan for best director and Paul Osborn for best screenplay. Co-star Jo Van Vleet, playing Cal's mother, won the best supporting actress Oscar. Read more

 

 

1886: Hugo Black, U.S. Supreme Court justice who served from 1937 to 1971 and is considered one of the most influential justices of the 20th century, is born in Ashland, Alabama.

1807: Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, U.S. poet known for works including "Paul Revere's Ride" and "The Song of Hiawatha," is born in Portland, Maine.

Click to discover notable people who died this day in history including Star Trek legend Leonard Nimoy.