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Born December 21

by Legacy Staff

Florence Griffith Joyner was the fastest woman on Earth – and of all time. We remember Griffith Joyner’s life today as well as the lives of other notable people who were born this day in history.

Florence Griffith Joyner was the fastest woman on Earth – and of all time. Affectionately called Flo-Jo, the track star smashed world records in the 100-meter and 200-meter races in 1988, setting records that still stand more than 25 years later. In the 1984 and 1988 Summer Olympics, she won gold and silver medals in a number of events, and she delighted fans back home with her colorful fashion sense, particularly her long and brightly painted fingernails. We remember Griffith Joyner’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 blues great Albert King.


1981: Frankie Abernathy, U.S. reality TV star who appeared on “The Real World: San Diego,” is born in Kansas City, Missouri.

1979: Steve Montador, Canadian NHL defenseman who played for such teams as the Chicago Blackhawks and the Buffalo Sabres, is born in Vancouver, British Columbia.

1959: Florence Griffith Joyner, U.S. track and field athlete who won three gold medals at the 1988 Olympics and still holds world records in the 100- and 200- meter races, is born in Los Angeles, California.

At the 1988 Olympic trials, while outfitted in a one-legged purple track suit and sporting four-inch fingernails, she set a world record in the 100 meters, running it in 10.49 seconds, knocking more than a quarter of a second off her best-ever time despite not even being one of the country’s best in the event a year earlier. The result was not without controversy – today, most admit it was almost certainly wind-aided – but her drug tests came back negative and the record stood. It still stands to this day. By the time the 1988 Seoul Olympics rolled around, Flo-Jo was the star attraction. Read more




1956: Phil Harris, U.S. captain of the Cornelia Marie, featured on the Discovery Channel series “Deadliest Catch,” is born in Bothell, Washington.

Phil Harris (Getty Images / Thos Robinson)According to the ship’s website, Harris started working on fishing boats at age 7 and started work 10 years later on a crab boat, according to his 2010 obituary by The Associated Press. When Harris turned 21, he ran a fishing vessel out of Seattle, making him one of the youngest to captain a vessel in the Bering Sea. Read more





1952: Joaquin Andujar, Dominican who was a star pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals in the 1980s, is born in San Pedro de Macoris, Dominican Republic.

1946: Carl Wilson, U.S. singer and guitarist who was a founding member of the Beach Boys, is born in Hawthorne, California.

You’llBeach Boy Carl Wilson (Wikimedia Commons) hear Wilson at the forefront of Beach Boys hits such as “Good Vibrations,” “Darlin’,” “Wild Honey,” and the song that he always stood up to sing, even near the end of his life when lung cancer kept him confined to a stool for the rest of a concert. That hit was “God Only Knows.” Wilson once described the joy he got from singing it: “I was honored to be able to sing that one. It is so beautifully written, it sings itself. Brian said something like, ‘Don’t do anything with it. Just sing it real straight. No effort. Take in a breath. Let it go real easy.’ I was really grateful to be the one to sing that song. I felt extremely lucky.” Read more



1943: Jack Nance, U.S. actor known for appearances in David Lynch films including “Eraserhead” and “Blue Velvet,” is born in Boston, Massachusetts.

1940: Frank Zappa, U.S. musician and composer whose work with the Mothers of Invention and as a solo artist was highly influential and critically acclaimed, is born in Baltimore, Maryland.

As leader of the band Mothers of Invention, Zappa created music that “impacted music, politics, social satire, and contemporary culture in general,” San Diego Union-Tribune music critic George Varga wrote in 2013. In the same article, musician Mike Keneally said it was understandable why Vaclav Havel found Zappa inspirational. “Frank’s music hammered away at the fact that the status quo was not ideal, and that you could do better in your everyday life,” he said. Read more




1935: John G. Avildsen, award winning director of “Rocky” and “The Karate Kid,” is born in Oak Park, Illinois.

1926: Joe Paterno, U.S. football coach of the Pennsylvania State University Nittany Lions from 1966 until 2011, when scandal ended his career, is born in Brooklyn, New York.

Joe Paterno (Associated Press)Paterno built his program on the credo “Success With Honor,” and he found both. The man known as “JoePa” won 409 games and took the Nittany Lions to 37 bowl games and two national championships, according to his 2012 obituary by The Associated Press. More than 250 of the players he coached went on to the NFL. Read more



1923: Wat Misaka, Japanese-American basketball player who joined the New York Knicks in 1947, becoming the first nonwhite player in modern professional basketball, is born in Ogden, Utah. 

1922: Paul Winchell, U.S. ventriloquist, voice actor, and inventor who hosted “The Paul Winchell Show,” is born in New York, New York.

1915: Werner von Trapp, Austrian member of the Trapp Family Singers, the inspiration for “The Sound of Music,” who was portrayed in the musical as the character Kurt, is born in Zell am See, Austria-Hungary.

During the 1930s, Werner von Trapp studied cello and became proficient on several other instruments. He sang tenor with his family’s choir, the Trapp Family Singers, who won great acclaim throughout Europe after their debut in 1935, according to his 2007 obituary by The Associated Press. In 1938, von Trapp and his family escaped from Nazi-occupied Austria. After they arrived in New York, the family became popular with concert audiences. The family eventually settled in Vermont. Read more




1915: Joe Mantell, U.S. actor who was nominated for an Academy Award for his supporting role in “Marty,” is born in Brooklyn, New York.

1913: Arnold Friberg, U.S. painter and illustrator known for his painting “The Prayer at Valley Forge” and for his “pre-visualization” paintings for Cecil B. DeMille’s movie “The Ten Commandments,” is born in Winnetka, Illinois.

Arnold Friberg (AP Photo)Friberg’s “The Prayer at Valley Forge,” which he created to commemorate the United States’ bicentennial in 1976, is displayed at the Mount Vernon estate in Virginia. It depicts Washington kneeling in the snow beside his horse, according to Friberg’s 2010 obituary by The Associated Press. In 1999, a federal judge ruled that bronze sculptures made by another artist were illegal copies of “The Prayer at Valley Forge” and violated Friberg’s copyright for the oil painting. Friberg had sued Jonathan Bronson in 1997, contending the two versions were unauthorized copies. Read more



1911: Josh Gibson, U.S. catcher with the Negro Leagues who is considered one of the greatest catchers in baseball history, is born in Buena Vista, Georgia.

1892: Rebecca West, English journalist and author known for her coverage of the Nuremberg trials for The New Yorker and for books including “Black Lamb” and “Grey Falcon,” is born in London, England.

Rebecca West had something pithy to say on a wide variety of subjects. A few of our favorites: On writing: “Fiction and poetry are the only way one can stop time and give an account of an experience and nail it down so that it lasts for ever.” On art: “Any authentic work of art must start an argument between the artist and their audience.” Read more




1804: Benjamin Disraeli, English author and prime minister of the United Kingdom, is born in London, England.

1118 or 1120: Thomas Becket, English saint and archbishop of Canterbury, is born in London, England.

Click to discover notable people who died this day in history including blues great Albert King.

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