Born September 2

Christa McAuliffe became the most famous teacher in the U.S. as she prepared to reach for the stars aboard the space shuttle Challenger. A social studies teacher at New Hampshire's Concord High School, she was selected as the first participant in the NASA Teacher in Space Project. She planned to conduct experiments aboard the shuttle and teach two lessons from space. But tragedy struck, and Challenger disintegrated just 73 seconds after launch. Across the country, schoolchildren were eagerly watching the launch on school televisions, and they were devastated by the loss – but they also were inspired by her story. In the years since, she has been honored for her bravery with dozens of schools named for her, as well as an asteroid and a crater on the moon. We remember McAuliffe'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 "Gilligan's Island" actor Bob Denver.

1948: Christa McAuliffe, U.S. teacher and astronaut who was a crew member of the space shuttle Challenger, is born in Boston, Massachusetts.

Christa McAuliffe (NASA)On her application, McAuliffe wrote, "I cannot join the space program and restart my life as an astronaut, but this opportunity to connect my abilities as an educator with my interests in history and space is a unique opportunity to fulfill my early fantasies. I watched the space program being born, and I would like to participate." Of those applicants, 114 were selected for the next round. During a trip to Washington, D.C., they were interviewed by a panel that included former astronauts, university presidents, artificial heart inventor Robert Jarvik, and actress Pam Dawber of "Mork & Mindy" fame. Read more

 

 

1946: Billy Preston, U.S. singer and keyboardist whose hits included "Will It Go Round in Circles" and who played as a session musician with artists including Ray Charles and the Beatles, is born in Houston, Texas.

"The only way to describe him was he was a musical chameleon," recalled Joyce Moore, Preston's longtime manager and close friend. "It didn't matter what genre or what direction an artist or producer wanted him to put his hands on keyboards and play." Of the five songs that producer Rick Rubin once sent to Preston to improve, "three were the Red Hot Chili Peppers and two were Neil Diamond," Moore said. "Billy had absolutely no instructions. An engineer person didn't come. Billy and Rick didn't talk about what Rick wanted. Billy was put into the studio and told, 'Just play whatever.' Literally. He played them all in one session, five songs in 25 minutes." Read more

 

 

1934: Grady Nutt, U.S. minister and humorist who was a cast member of "Hee Haw," is born in Amarillo, Texas.

1929: Hal Ashby, U.S. movie director whose films include "Harold and Maude" and "Shampoo," is born in Ogden, Utah.

Perhaps his most remembered film is his second, the unforgettable "Harold and Maude." The unconventional love story was initially a box office flop but found a second life as a cult favorite thanks to its remarkable style and substance. Ashby also imparted a sense of longing and a desperate quest for meaning in his films, dancing skillfully between bleak resignation and suspicious optimism in a way few other filmmakers manage. Read more

 

 

1928: Mel Stuart, U.S. movie director known best for directing "Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory," is born in New York, New York.

Mel Stuart (Associated Press Photo)During the 1960s and 1970s, Stuart and David L. Wolper established a base of West Coast documentary production at a time when New York filmmakers and TV network news dominated the field. Stuart's dozens of documentary films include three editions of "The Making of the President" and, for PBS' "American Masters," portraits of the artist Man Ray and the director Billy Wilder. Stuart's groundbreaking film "Wattstax" focused on the 1972 music festival and Los Angeles' largely black Watts community in the wake of the 1965 riots. Read more

 

 

 

1928: Horace Silver, U.S. jazz pianist whose popular songs include "Sister Sadie," is born in Norwalk, Connecticut.

Horace Silver (AP Photo/Courtesy The Recording Academy)Songs like "The Preacher," "Song for My Father," and the evocatively titled "Filthy McNasty" showed the possibilities of jazz when leavened with other sounds, and his experimentation would not end there. He eventually began to include lyrics with his works and explored social and political themes in his music in the 1960s and '70s, even dabbling in what he described as cosmic philosophy. Read more

 

 

1918: Allen Drury, U.S. journalist and author who won a Pulitzer Prize for his novel "Advise and Consent," is born in Houston, Texas.

1917: Cleveland Amory, U.S. author and animal welfare activist whose books include "The Cat Who Came for Christmas," is born in Nahant, Massachusetts.

1915: Meinhardt Raabe, U.S. actor who played the Munchkin coroner in "The Wizard of Oz," is born in Watertown, Wisconsin.

Raabe was a veteran "midget" performer, as little people were then known, when the film was made. He was the official who pronounces the Wicked Witch "really most sincerely dead." In a 1988 Associated Press interview, he said he had no idea the movie would become a classic because at the time of its release, it was overshadowed by "Gone With the Wind." Read more

 

 

Click to discover notable people who died this day in history including "Gilligan's Island" actor Bob Denver.