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Legal History

A guide to some important dates in legal history.

JULY

2 - Johnson Signs Civil Rights Act

President Lyndon JohnsonOn July 2, 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed into law the historic Civil Rights Act, which outlawed segregation in businesses, public places, and banned discriminatory practices in employment.  In 1963, President John F. Kennedy proposed civil rights legislation, and after his assassination, Johnson vowed to carry out civil rights reform.  Passage of the act was not easy.  The act faced opposition in the House and a filibuster in the Senate before it was passed, providing for equal treatment of all peoples regardless of race.

4 - Independence Day

On July 4, 1776, the First Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence and ordered it to be printed. The document was drafted by Thomas Jefferson, and served to formally sever ties with Great Britain, declaring the colonies independent. Independence Day celebrations date back to the eighteenth century, but Independence Day, or the Fourth of July, has been a federal holiday in the United States since 1941.

8 - Confederated Tribes of the Chehalis Reservation Created

Chehalis ReservationOn July 8, 1864, Secretary of the Interior J.P. Usher created the Confederated Tribes of the Chehalis Reservation. For centuries the Salish-speaking people had lived along the Chehalis River in two groups, the Upper and Lower Chehalis, until American settlers arrived. In 1855, the Chehalis groups did not sign the treaties offered by the U.S. Government, refusing to give up their traditional lands. However, American settlers continued to move into the area, filing claims on the Chehalis lands. In order to preserve a place for the Chehalis groups within their original territory, Usher authorized purchase of 4,224.63 acres of land at the confluence of the Black and Chehalis Rivers, including both prairie and timberlands.

20 - Apollo 11 Lands

Astronaut's foot on moon, Apollo 11President John F. Kennedy predicted in 1960 that by the end of the decade the country would put a man on the moon and return him home safely.  The triumphant Apollo 11 moon landing on July 20, 1969, began an era of moon exploration that has so far gone unrivaled.  American astronauts Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin became the first humans to land on the moon. About six and a half hours after landing, Armstrong became the first person to walk on the moon.

26 - President Truman Signs National Security Act

President Harry TrumanOn July 26, 1947, President Truman signed the National Security Act of 1947, a central document in U.S. Cold War policy. The Act, which took more than a year to craft, directed a major reorganization of the foreign policy and military establishments of the U.S. Government. The Act established the National Security Council (NSC), merged the War and Navy departments into the Department of Defense headed by the secretary of defense, and recognized the Air Force as independent from the Army. The Act also established the role of the CIA by assigning the responsibility of foreign intelligence to the CIA.