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Born July 31

Richard Griffiths was an award-winning star of stage and screen, big and small, but many Americans know him best for one iconic role. He played Vernon Dursley, the deeply unpleasant uncle of a certain "Boy Who Lived" in the "Harry Potter" series. But don't chalk him up as a one-note actor – Griffiths had roles in many well-known films, including "Gandhi," "Chariots of Fire," and "Withnail and I," and he was all over British TV for decades. Starring on Broadway in "The History Boys," he won several awards, including a Tony Award and a Drama Desk Award. We remember Griffiths' 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 professional wrestler Roddy Piper.

1947: Richard Griffiths, English actor known for roles in the "Harry Potter" series, "Withnail and I," and "Gandhi," is born in Thornaby-on-Tees, England.

Griffiths was a Tony Award-winning actor with dozens of credits onstage, on the big screen and TV dating back to the 1970s, but his greatest fame came in the last dozen years of his life. That was when he landed a coveted role in the "Harry Potter" movie series. Griffiths played a villain, Harry's uncompassionate Uncle Vernon, and he made the role one we love to hate. Read more




1935: Geoffrey Lewis, U.S. actor who appeared on "My Name Is Earl" and "Flo," and is the father of actress Juliette Lewis, is born in Plainfield, New Jersey.

1932: Ted Cassidy, U.S. actor known best for playing Lurch on TV's "The Addams Family," is born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Lurch originally was intended to be a nonspeaking role, but Cassidy ad-libbed, "You rang?" during his audition. It became his signature line. Cassidy also played the role of "Thing," the disembodied hand. (A show producer stepped in when Thing and Lurch appeared in the same scene.) Once Lurch was given a voice – he spoke in a deep tone reminiscent of someone shaking a box of rocks – he also got story lines. In one episode, Lurch's mother, played by Ellen Corby, who later starred as "The Waltons" matriarch Grandma Esther Walton, comes to visit, referring to her towering boy as "Sonny." In the two-part episode, "Lurch's Grand Romance," Lurch falls in love, at least for a little while. Read more



1923: Ahmet Ertegun, Turkish-American businessman who founded Atlantic Records, is born in Istanbul, Turkey.

Ertegun parlayed his love of music into a career when he founded Atlantic with partner Herb Abramson and a $10,000 (euro 7,580) loan. When the label first started, it made its name with blues-edged recordings by acts such as Ruth Brown. Despite his privileged background, which included attending prep school and socializing with Washington's elite, Ertegun was able to mix with all kinds of people – an attribute that made him not just a marketer of black music, but a part of it, said Jerry Wexler. "The transition between these two worlds is one of Ahmet's most distinguishing characteristics," Wexler said. Read more




1922: Hank Bauer, U.S. professional baseball player and skipper who managed the Baltimore Orioles when they won their first World Series in 1966, is born in East St. Louis, Illinois.

A three-time All-Star outfielder, Bauer played on Yankees teams that won nine American League pennants and seven World Series in 10 years. He set the Series record with a 17-game hitting streak, a mark that still stands. Bauer played his last two seasons with the Kansas City Athletics, a team he managed in 1961-62. He also managed Baltimore from 1964-68 and the Athletics again in Oakland in 1969. Bauer was voted The Associated Press AL manager of the year in 1964 and 1966, when his Orioles swept the Los Angeles Dodgers in the World Series. Read more




1921: Whitney Young, U.S. civil rights leader who led and expanded the National Urban League, is born in Shelby County, Kentucky.

As the head of the National Urban League, he turned the organization from a small and cautious one to a leader in the civil rights movement. He worked with major corporations to change their hiring practices, bringing more African-Americans and women into good jobs. He advised Presidents John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, and Richard Nixon, fostering a connection between their office and the civil rights movement. As Nixon said at Young's funeral, "he knew how to accomplish what other people were merely for." Read more




1921: Peter Benenson, English lawyer who founded Amnesty International, is born in London, England.

In 1961, at age 40, he set up Amnesty after reading an article about the arrest and imprisonment of two students in a cafe in Lisbon, Portugal, who had drunk a toast to liberty. He initially envisioned Amnesty as a one-year campaign, but it went on to become the world's largest independent human rights organizations. Currently, Amnesty, which is based in London, has more than 1.8 million members and supporters worldwide. It considers itself a citizens' movement to expose and confront government injustice. Read more




1919: Curt Gowdy, U.S. sportscaster who was the longtime voice of the Boston Red Sox, is born in Green River, Wyoming.

In his 1960 essay "Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu," published in The New Yorker, John Updike said Gowdy sounded like "everybody's brother-in-law." Veteran NBC broadcaster Dick Enberg said that if Gowdy were calling a game, "you knew it was a major event." "He was the first superstar of sports television because he did all of the big events – the World Series, the Super Bowl, NCAA basketball, the Olympics, and his outdoor sportsman show," Enberg added. "He's the last of the dinosaurs. No one will ever be the voice of so many major events at the same time ever again." Read more




1916: Bill Todman, U.S. television producer who, along with partner Mark Goodson, produced popular game shows including "Family Feud," "Match Game," and "The Price Is Right," is born in New York, New York.

1912: Irv Kupcinet, U.S. newspaper columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times who was well-known as Kup, is born in Chicago, Illinois.

1886: Fred Quimby, U.S. cartoon producer who won seven Academy awards for "Tom and Jerry," is born in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Click to discover notable people who died this day in history including professional wrestler Roddy Piper.