Born January 15

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. inspired millions during his lifetime to demand human rights for all people, and in the decades since his death he has become an icon for the ideals of nonviolent civil disobedience against unjust laws. In 1964, he won the Nobel Peace Prize in recognition of his groundbreaking work in the struggle for civil rights in America. His organization, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, still carries on his work in securing equality for all Americans. We remember King'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 singer Harry Nilsson.

1948: Ronnie Van Zant, U.S. musician who was the lead singer and primary lyricist for the Southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd, is born in Jacksonville, Florida.

Ironically, though "Free Bird" is one of the best-known rock songs of all time, it didn't tear up the charts. None of Lynyrd Skynyrd's songs did – "Free Bird" peaked at No. 19 on the Billboard Hot 100, one of only a handful of Skynyrd songs that cracked the charts at all. It was an era when pop music was more likely to make the cut than rock (Barbra Streisand dominated the Hot 100 in the year "Free Bird" charted), and Lynyrd Skynyrd and their peers played music most often heard on basement record players and muscle-car 8-tracks. Read more

 

 

 

1941: Don Van Vliet, aka Captain Beefheart, U.S. singer-songwriter known for his avant-garde and experimental music, as well as his collaborations with Frank Zappa, is born in Glendale, California.

Van Vliet was probably known best for the album Trout Mask Replica, released in 1969 by Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band, according to his 2010 obituary by The Associated Press. The album's angular, dissonant take on blues rock and Van Vliet's growling, surreal lyrics put him outside the mainstream, but staked his place in rock history. At the time of Van Vliet's death, Rolling Stone magazine ranked Trout Mask Replica No. 58 on its list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. The album was produced by fellow experimental rock pioneer Frank Zappa, a high school friend from the desert town of Lancaster, California. Read more

 

 

 

1933: Patricia Blair, U.S. actress known best for roles in TV's Daniel Boone and The Rifleman, is born in Fort Worth, Texas.

Wikimedia CommonsHer first movie was Jump Into Hell (1955), about the battle of Dien Bien Phu in French Indochina, according to her 2013 obituary by The New York Times. She appeared in the horror film The Black Sleep (1956), which starred Bela Lugosi and Lon Chaney Jr., and the 1959 film City of Fear before turning to television. Her last role was in the 1979 Robert Redford-Jane Fonda movie, The Electric Horseman. Read more

 

 

 

 

1929: The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., U.S. civil rights leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner, is born in Atlanta, Georgia.

Today we remember him as a martyr for the civil rights struggle, a voice for peace and an American hero, thanks in large part to the enduring power of his sermons and speeches. King's words and the ideas behind them cemented his legacy as one of the nation's greatest minds. His famous "I Have a Dream" speech during the March on Washington in 1963 would be enough to earn him a place of honor in American history, but King delivered so much more from the pulpit and podium during his all too brief life. Read more

 

 

 

1929: Earl Hooker, U.S. blues guitarist who performed with others including his cousin John Lee Hooker, is born in Quitman County, Mississippi.

1924: George Lowe, New Zealand mountaineer who was part of the team that ascended Mount Everest in 1953 with Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay, is born in Hastings, New Zealand.

George Lowe (AP Photo)One of two New Zealanders on the 1953 British expedition, Lowe helped establish the final camp 1,000 feet below the mountain's summit May 28, 1953, according to his 2013 obituary by The Associated Press. The next day, Hillary and Norgay reached the peak. As Hillary descended the next day, he told Lowe, "Well, George, we knocked the bastard off." Read more

 

 

 

 

1921: Frank Thornton, English actor who played Captain Peacock in Are You Being Served?, is born in London, England.

Frank Thornton (Photo by Larry Ellis/Express/Getty Images)The actor is remembered best by British audiences for his comic role in the innuendo-laden hit sitcom, which ran from the 1970s to 1985. He played a mustachioed, pompous floor manager who oversaw his fellow shop workers in a department store, according to his 2013 obituary by The Associated Press. Read more

 

 

 

 

1913: Lloyd Bridges, U.S. actor known for starring roles on television's Sea Hunt and many other TV shows and movies, who was the father of actors Beau and Jeff Bridges, is born in San Leandro, California.

One of Bridges' first successes was on the late-1950s TV show Sea Hunt. Playing an ex-frogman turned freelance scuba diver, Bridges brought rugged adventure to the screen. Though an inexperienced diver when Sea Hunt began, Bridges learned more over the course of the show's four-season run, and eventually did all his own scuba shots except the most dangerous stunts. Read more

 

 

 

1909: Gene Krupa, U.S. jazz drummer whose drum battles with Buddy Rich showed off his flashy and energetic style, is born in Chicago, Illinois.

The Gene Krupa Orchestra debuted in Atlantic City 1938 to instant success. In its review, the magazine Metronome gushed, "Gene is now firmly entrenched at the helm of a swing outfit that's bound to be recognized very shortly as one of the most potent bits of catnip to be fed to the purring public that generally passes as America's swing contingent. … Throughout the evening the kids and kittens shagged, trucked, jumped up and down and down and up, and often yelled and screamed at the series of solid killer-dillers." Read more

 

 

 

1908: Edward Teller, Hungarian-American physicist known as the Father of the Hydrogen Bomb, is born in Budapest, Hungary.

1891: Ray Chapman, U.S. Major League Baseball shortstop with the Cleveland Indians who remains the only MLB player to have died of an injury received during a game, is born in Beaver Dam, Kentucky.

1842: Mary MacKillop, nun who became the first and only Australian to be recognized as a saint by the Roman Catholic Church, is born in Fitzroy, Australia.

1842: Josef Breuer, Austrian physician who laid the groundwork for psychoanalysis, which was further developed by his student, Sigmund Freud, is born in Vienna, Austria.

1622: Molière, nee Jean-Baptiste Poquelin, French playwright known for works including The Misanthrope and Tartuffe, is born in Paris, France.

Click to discover notable people who died this day in history including singer Harry Nilsson.