(ABC4) – She nearly made it.
Many have mourned the death of beloved entertainment icon Betty White, who passed away on New Year’s Eve at the age of 99, just 3 weeks away from her 100th birthday. She would have reached the century mark on Jan. 17.
A star of gameshows, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, and The Golden Girls, among many other credits, White had been a fixture in American pop culture for decades.
As remarkable as both her longevity and her popularity were throughout her life and career, what may be even more incredible is the list of world events White lived through. Born in 1922, just after Prohibition had begun and as the Roaring Twenties were underway, White saw a remarkable amount of change in her lifetime. It has been joked that she was the greatest thing since sliced bread, but the real joke is that she was born six years before sliced bread was first sold.
Here’s a rundown on some major world events that took place during Betty White’s life:
1922 – The Soviet Union is formed
Following the end of the Russian Civil War, a new social government state led by Vladimir Lenin takes power, called the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), better known as the Soviet Union.
1923 – The Walt Disney Company is established
Established by brothers Walt and Roy Disney, the Disney Brothers Cartoon Studio opens its doors in the Los Feliz neighborhood of Los Angeles. At this time, Disney is still five years away from debuting its most successful and iconic character, Mickey Mouse.
1924 – The Winter Olympic Games make their debut
Given an initial run in Chamonix, France as the “International Winter Sports Week,” the six-sport event is deemed so successful, the International Olympic Committee retroactively denotes the week was the first Olympic Winter Games.
1928 – Americans pop bubbles for the first time
Bubble gum first hits the market, produced by Fleer Chewing Gum. The product would later be rebranded as Dubble Bubble.
1929 – Stock Markets crash on Black Thursday and Tuesday on Wall Street
Over a course of five days, from Oct. 24-29, the stock market experiences its largest crash ever, with share prices on the New York Exchange collapsing to record losses. This essentially kicks off the Great Depression. It would take more than 25 years for the markets to recover to their previous peaks.
1931 – The Star-Spangled Banner officially becomes the national anthem
Although it was penned over 100 years earlier, in 1814 by Francis Scott Key, it wasn’t until 1931 that the Star-Spangled Banner was adopted as the national anthem. A few months later, the Empire State Building is completed, standing as the world’s tallest building until the completion of the World Trade Center in 1970.
1933 – Drink up, prohibition is over
The United States ends its 13-year long ban on the production and sale of alcoholic beverages with the ratification of the 21st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Utah actually played a major role in re-legalizing alcohol in the United States as the state’s constitutional convention voted unanimously to ratify, putting the voting over the top for national ratification.
1934 – Hitler consolidates power in Germany
Adolf Hitler, leader of the Nazi party and newly appointed as Germany’s chancellor, enacts political purges to consolidate his power. By midway through 1934, he is in complete control as a dictator.
1937 – ‘Oh the humanity!’
In the same year that the Hindenburg crashes, ending the era of airship travel, several major and long-lasting pieces of pop culture are introduced. J.R.R. Tolkien publishes The Hobbit, and The Walt Disney Studios releases Snow White the Seven Dwarfs, the first full-length animated motion picture.
1939 – World War II begins
Nazi Germany invades Poland, angering allies in the United Kingdom and France. Around the same time, Japan and the Soviet Union engage in conflicts. World War II begins.
1940 – The first McDonald’s opens
Brothers Richard and Maurice McDonald open their first hamburger stand in San Bernardino, Calif. The business would eventually be purchased by businessman Ray Kroc, who would turn it into the largest restaurant chain in the world.
1941 – Attack on Pearl Harbor
Germany begins its invasion of the Soviet Union, continuing the carnage of World War II. The Japanese attack on the Hawaiian Naval Base, Pearl Harbor, on Dec. 7, thrusts the United States into the war.
1944 – U.S. troops arrive in Europe on D-Day
American troops land on the beach in Normandy, France, the largest seaborne invasion in history. While thousands were killed on the day of the attack on June 6, the Allied victory began the liberation of France from Nazi grasp and led to a breaking point in the war.
1945 – WWII ends
Following the deaths of Italian dictator Benito Mussolini and Hitler, along with the dropping of U.S. atomic bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, World War II ends.
1947 – Jackie Robinson takes the field in Major League Baseball
Infielder Jackie Robinson breaks the color barrier in baseball when he makes his debut at first base for the Brooklyn Dodgers on April 15.
1953 – DNA is better understood
For the first time, scientists are able to produce a model of deoxyribonucleic acid, or DNA, in its double-helix form. Color television is first introduced in the United States as well.
1954 – Supreme Court finds racial segregation in schools unconstitutional
The Supreme Court makes a landmark decision in Brown v. Board of Education, ruling that racial segregation in public schools is unconstitutional, a major civil rights victory.
1955 – Rosa Parks refuses to give up her seat
Montgomery, Alabama bus patron Rosa Parks refuses to give up her seat to a white man and becomes a key figure in the continuing civil rights movement. The polio vaccine, developed by Jonas Salk, is given approval by the FDA and begins to eradicate the disease in the United States.
1957-58 – The Space Age begins
The Soviet Union launches the first Earth satellite, Sputnik 1, in Oct. 1957. The U.S. responds with the creation of NASA and the Space Race is on.
1962 – Nuclear war avoided
The entire globe is nearly thrust into nuclear war during the Cuban Missile Crisis, but the confrontation between the United States and the Soviet Union is quelled after several days of negotiation by President John F. Kennedy and Soviet Secretary Nikita Khrushchev.
1963 – JFK is assassinated in public
While riding through a motorcade in Dealey Plaza in Dallas, Texas on Nov. 22, Kennedy is assassinated by gunfire from Lee Harvey Oswald. His death puts vice president Lyndon B. Johnson in office.
1967 – Packers, Chiefs, play first Super Bowl
The first playing of the Super Bowl, which was called the AFL-NFL World Championship Game at the time, pits the Green Bay Packers against the Kansas City Chiefs on a neutral field at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
1968 – Martin Luther King Jr. is assassinated
Civil Rights Movement leader Martin Luther King Jr., a strong advocate of nonviolence and civil disobedience, is killed by a sniper assassin while staying at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tenn.
1969 – Man walks on the Moon
NASA spacecraft Apollo 11 successfully lands on the Moon, enabling commander Neil Armstrong to become the first human to step on the surface on July 21.
1972 – Atari releases Pong
Manufactured by Atari, which was founded by Utah native Nolan Bushnell, Pong, a table tennis-style game, is released and becomes a commercial hit.
1973 – Roe v. Wade marks major ruling on abortion
The Supreme Court reaches a significant ruling in Roe v. Wade concerning a woman’s ability to choose to have an abortion without excessive government restrictions. At the time, Texas law made it a crime to have an abortion, this ruling found that to be a violation of a fundamental right to privacy.
1974 – In wake of Watergate, Nixon resigns
In the fallout of the Watergate scandal, its attempted coverup, and facing the possibility of impeachment, President Richard Nixon resigns from office, a first in American political history.
1977 – Personal computers hit the market
PCs, or personal computers, begin to become more and more commonplace as they hit the commercial market and are mass-produced. Early models include the Commodore PET, the Apple II, and the TRS-80 from Radio Shack.
1981 – The AIDS epidemic begins in the United States
In June 1981, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) first documents unusual clusters of a disease that would later be called Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome or AIDS.
1986 – Disasters strike Space Shuttle Challenger, Chernobyl
In a year of disasters, the Space Shuttle Challenger explodes just over a minute into flight, killing all seven crew members on board. Later in the spring, a meltdown at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant renders the area unhabitable and highly radioactive.
1989 – The Berlin Wall falls
Having stood since 1961, dividing the democratic and communistic sides of Europe, the Berlin Wall is opened up and torn down in Dec. 1989. This led to the Soviet Union completely dissolving shortly afterward in 1991.
1990 – The World Wide Web
The first website is published by English computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee, creating the World Wide Web.
1992 – The L.A. Riots
After a jury acquits four Los Angeles Police Department officers for using excessive force after a videotaped beating of Rodney King is widely broadcast, the city erupts in riots. Over a six-day stretch, looting, assault, and arson run rampant in the area, including an unprovoked attack on a truck driver, Reginald Denny, which is shown live on national television.
1995 – “Not guilty.”
Millions tune in for the reading of the verdict in the ‘Trial of the Century,’ which put former football star and actor O.J. Simpson on the stand for the double homicide of Ron Goldman and Nicole Brown Simpson, his estranged wife. The jury finds Simpson not guilty, a ruling that has since been debated and criticized by many.
1998 – I’m feeling lucky
The internet’s dominant search engine and one of the largest companies in the world, Google, later Alphabet, is established by Stanford Ph.D. students Larry Page and Sergey Brin.
2001 – September 11
The United States and the entire world look on in horror as hijacked aircraft make coordinated attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia. Nearly 3,000 are killed in the attacks, for which Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden took credit.
2004 – Facebook is founded
Formed by a group of students at Harvard College, including Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook goes online to connect college students across the nation. The social media platform would quickly become a fixture in global life and has had its share of controversies as it continues to grow its influence.
2007 – The iPhone is unveiled
Apple CEO and Founder Steve Jobs introduces a “revolutionary product that changes everything,” the iPhone. Teasing three products; a touchscreen iPod music player, a mobile phone, and an internet communicator, Jobs presents a single device that can do all those things to raucous applause at an Apple Keynote event.
2009 – Obama becomes president
A Democratic senator from Illinois, Barack Obama wins the 2008 presidential election and becomes the first African-American to take office in Jan. 2009. He also wins a second term in 2012 by defeating Mitt Romney, who now serves as a Utah senator.
2016 – Trump elected president
On the heels of perhaps the most contentious presidential election in U.S. history, Republican candidate Donald Trump wins the presidency in what is considered a shocking upset over Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, who was vying to become the first female president.
2020 – The COVID-19 pandemic begins
Beginning in Wuhan, China, a novel coronavirus, or COVID-19 quickly spreads across the world. By March, the U.S. enters a national emergency and claims the highest death toll in the world just a month later. Almost two years later, the pandemic is still ongoing.
There are countless other major events that Betty White would have experienced, but as the above list indicates, she certainly saw a lot in her celebrated lifetime.