Aug. 11 (UPI) — On this date in history:
In 1877, Thomas Edison described the fundamentals of the phonograph to an assistant and instructed him to build the first one.
In 1934, the first group of federal prisoners classified as “most dangerous” arrived at Alcatraz Island, a 22-acre rocky outcrop 1.5 miles offshore in San Francisco Bay.
In 1943, German military forces started evacuating Sicily, Italy, under threat by the Allies in World War II.
In 1954, a formal announcement ended the seven-year war in Indochina between France and forces of the communist Viet Minh.
In 1965, riots began in the Watts section of Los Angeles. In six days of violence, 34 people were killed.
In 1984, in an off-air radio voice check picked up by TV cameras, U.S. President Ronald Reagan joked, “My fellow Americans, I’m pleased to tell you today that I’ve signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in 5 minutes.” The Kremlin wasn’t amused.
In 1991, a Lebanese militant group, the Revolutionary Justice Organization, released U.S. hostage Edward Tracy, 60, who was a captive for nearly five years.
In 1993, U.S. President Bill Clinton endorsed the “Brady Bill” handgun control measure and signed an executive order banning the import of semiautomatic assault-style handguns.
In 1997, Bill Clinton became the first U.S. president to use the line-item veto, a power granted by Congress the year before.
In 1998, two boys, ages 12 and 14, were found to be “delinquent” (the juvenile court equivalent of a guilty verdict) in the fatal March shootings of four students and a teacher at their middle school in Jonesboro, Ark.
In 1999, the Kansas State Board of Education voted to drop the theory of evolution from the public school curriculum.
In 2007, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America voted to refrain from disciplining members of the clergy involved in same-sex relationships.
In 2009, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, younger sister of President John Kennedy, mother of former California first lady Maria Shriver and founder of the Special Olympics, died in a Cape Cod, Mass., hospital. She was 88. She devoted much of her life to raising funds for, and awareness of, people with mental disabilities.
In 2014, Oscar-winning actor and comedian Robin Williams died at age 63 in Tiburon, Calif. “This is a sudden and tragic loss,” his publicist said. Williams’ wife, Susan Schneider, said “the world lost one of its most beloved artists and beautiful human beings.” Williams’ death was ruled a suicide.
In 2016, Michael Phelps became the first swimmer to win four consecutive Olympic gold medals in a single event.