This Day In History, August 11th

What happened on this day in history: The Watts Rebellion begins in Los Angeles, Robin Williams dies, and more noteworthy events from August 11th.

1833: Robert Ingersoll Is Born

“The Great Agnostic” Robert G. Ingersoll is born in Dresden, New York. The lawyer, politician, and orator earned his nickname by campaigning in defense of agnosticism during the Golden Age of Free Thought in the mid-19th century, when he popularized scientific rationalism and criticism of the Bible. Ingersoll became a successful attorney general for the state of Illinois, but his religious views kept the Republican Party from appointing him to higher posts.

1934: The First Civilian Prisoners Arrive At Alcatraz

Alcatraz Mess Hall

National Park ServiceA guard stands watch as prisoners enter Alcatraz’s mess hall for a meal in 1955.

A group of America’s “most dangerous” prisoners arrives at the infamous Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary in San Francisco, California. They were the first civilians to be incarcerated at this former military prison.

More prisoners arrived throughout the month, including the infamous mobster Al Capone. Many attempted to escape from Alcatraz over the years, though only three men may have ever succeeded — while it’s equally likely that they drowned in their attempt and simply never washed ashore.

1965: The Watts Rebellion Begins

Watts Rebellion

Wikimedia CommonsThe Watts Rebellion was the most destructive uprising of its kind in the city’s history until the Rodney King riots of 1992.

Police abuse against Black citizens sparks a massive uprising in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles. When Marquette Frye was struck with a baton after being pulled over for drunk driving, onlookers claimed they saw an officer kick a pregnant woman who was present at the scene, and the unrest began. The Watts Rebellion lasted six days, and 14,000 National Guard troops were brought in to suppress it, ultimately leading to the deaths of 34 people and $40 million worth of property damage.

1998: Poughkeepsie Killer Kendall Francois Is Sentenced To Life In Prison

The Poughkeepsie Killer Kendall Francois is sentenced to life in prison for the murders of eight women. Known by his nickname “Stinky,” Francois was noted by his coworkers and family as always emanating a horrendous stench. Police would later realize that the stench came from the multiple bodies that Francois had stashed inside his New York home.

Eventually, statements from local prostitutes would lead police to Francois and his house of horrors. In total, police believe Francois is responsible for at least eight murders, though it’s possible that he killed many more. Francois died in 2014 while incarcerated.

2014: Robin Williams Dies

Today In History August 11

Peter Kramer/Getty ImagesRobin Williams in 2006.

Beloved actor and comedian Robin Williams dies by suicide in his Paradise Cay, California home at the age of 63. His official cause of death was asphyxia due to hanging, but an examination of his brain tissue showed he was suffering from Lewy body dementia, which can cause depression, anxiety, memory loss, and even paranoia. Williams’ widow noted he had experienced a spike in all of these symptoms leading up to his tragic death.