11 Iconic TV Moments From The 1960s

The majority of American homes had televisions by 1960. A TV was present in over 90% of homes, making it practically universal. Before the Kennedy presidency, television was far behind print journalism in terms of sources audiences relied upon for news. 

The following decade would see the medium grow in both importance and range. The day’s headlines and news on American forces in Vietnam, notably the number of casualties or wounds, were soon, however, mostly sourced from television news. 

When a significant event occurred on television, the entire nation was affected simultaneously. Here are some of the most defining moments in 1960s television!

Here are some of the most defining moments in 1960s television!

Elvis discharged from the military

Elvis Presley, who was at the top of his game in the entertainment industry, voluntarily enlisted in the military as a young man. During his recording and acting careers, he briefly served in the US Army. Due to the passing of two significant women in his life and the introduction of two new ones, this period was extremely significant for him. After barely two years of duty, he got out of the Army in 1960.

Elvis Presley was in the Army for an unusual period of time, during which he did start down a path that would eventually lead to his doom. The singer’s use of drugs, which is widely believed to have started while he was in the Army, became a life-changing issue for him. The King reportedly served as a “evangelist” for the use of these drugs, even though they ultimately had a negative impact on him and are thought to have contributed to his poor health and death.

Presley stayed in the country following his departure from Fort Dix in New Jersey. He served his country for four years before leaving the Army Reserve. The train that carried Presley from New Jersey to Tennessee was mobbed all the way, and he was called upon to appear at scheduled stops to please his fans.

Nixon-Kennedy debate

On September 26, 1960, the first presidential debate between the two leading contenders for the office of President of the United States was broadcast on television. Don Hewitt, who later became the executive producer of 60 Minutes (which debuted in 1968), oversaw the production of the discussion for CBS. Sen. John F. Kennedy of the Democratic Party and Vice President George H.W. Bush of the Republican Party participated in a total of four debates. All three networks simultaneously broadcast Richard M. Nixon, and production duties were shared among them. But the first debate, which attracted a then-record audience of about 70 million, was the most significant and widely watched.

That the power of television play a significant civic role in American society was proven by the fact that crucial political problems could be debated by the candidates for the nation’s highest office and made easily available to the almost 90% of American homes with televisions by 1960. This lengthy debate was broadcast without advertisements and made the case that television might support democracy in ways other than via the broadcasting of 30-second ads; it also promised valuable applications for the new medium.

Bay of Pigs invasion

At the Bay of Pigs on Cuba’s southern coast, 1,400 Cuban exiles launched what ended up being a disastrous invasion on April 17, 1961. Fulgencio Batista, the dictator of Cuba, was overthrown in an armed uprising in 1959, and Fidel Castro took his place. Because of Castro’s friendship with the Soviet Union’s leader Nikita Khrushchev, the US administration mistrusted him.

John F. Kennedy was informed of a CIA plot to prepare Cuban exiles for an invasion of their country before his inauguration. The plan had been created under the Eisenhower administration. The invasion was expected to be supported by the Cuban populace and some Cuban military units. The ultimate goal was the overthrow of Castro and the establishment of a non-communist government friendly to the United States.

Two airstrikes against Cuban air sites were part of the initial invasion strategy. Under cover of night, a 1,400-man invading force would unload and launch a surprise assault. Transport would be disrupted and Cuban forces would be repelled by paratroopers who were dropped before the assault. A smaller force would arrive on Cuba’s east coast at the same time to cause chaos.

The first mishap occurred on April 15, 1961, when eight bombers left Nicaragua to bomb Cuban airfields. The CIA painted outdated World War II B-26 bombers to resemble Cuban air force aircraft. Most of Castro’s air force was unharmed and the bombers missed many of their targets. Photos of the American jets that had been painted, demonstrated American backing for the invasion as news of the invasion spread. A second air strike was then canceled by President Kennedy.

Marilyn Monroe dies

The American actress and sex icon Marilyn Monroe passed away at the age of 36 from a barbiturate overdose on August 4, 1962, inside her Brentwood, Los Angeles, California home at 12305 Fifth Helena Drive. It was on August  5 that her corpse was found just before sunrise. 

The public was devastated by the death of the iconic actress, with the news of her passing making the front page of newspapers around the world.

Carson takes over ‘The Tonight Show’

Johnny Carson succeeds Jack Paar as host of the late-night talk show The Tonight Show on October 1, 1962. One of the most well-known characters in entertainment throughout the 20th century, Carson went on to headline The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson for three decades.

Carson made an appearance the The Tonight Show in 1958 as a stand-in for host Jack Paar.  On October 1, 1962, Carson permanently replaced Parr as host. Up until 1972, he presided over the program from New York City; after that, it moved to Burbank, California. After three decades with the hugely successful Tonight Show, Carson decided to retire. He hosted his final show on May 22, 1992.

Cuban missile crisis

For thirteen days in October 1962, the world waited and prayed for a peaceful end to the Cuban Missile Crisis as it appeared to be on the verge of nuclear war.

An American U-2 spy plane surreptitiously captured images of Soviet nuclear missile construction locations on the island of Cuba in October 1962. Kennedy did not want the Soviet Union and Cuba to learn that the missiles had been found. He spent many days having covert meetings with his advisers to talk about the issue.

Kennedy made the decision to erect a naval blockade, or ring of ships, around Cuba after a number of protracted and contentious talks. This so-called “quarantine,” as he referred to it, was intended to stop the Soviet Union from bringing in further military supplies. He commanded that the missiles currently stationed there be destroyed, along with the missile launch locations. In a televised address on October 22, President Kennedy discussed the problem with the country.

Alabama governor resists desegregation

In his inauguration address in January 1963, George Wallace, who had just been elected governor of Alabama, famously said: “Segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.” 

On June 11, 1963, when black students James A. Hood and Vivian Malone arrived at the University of Alabama campus in Tuscaloosa to attend class, the ardent conservative displayed his dedication to the cause. In a situation that historians frequently refer to as the “Stand in the Schoolhouse Door,” the governor figuratively stood in the doorway while federal agents attempted to let the pupils inside.

President John F. Kennedy requested 100 soldiers from the Alabama National Guard to help government officials when Wallace refused to budge. Wallace made the decision to resign rather than stir conflict. After the Alabama clash, Kennedy addressed a large audience throughout the country, explaining his proposals for federal legislation to facilitate broader integration. U.S. and other conservative Americans were outraged by the historic speech. David Lawrence, the creator and editor of News.

I have a Dream

On August 28, 1963, a young man by the name of Martin Luther King ascended the marble steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., about 100 years after President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation liberating the slaves. to explain his idea of America. More than 200,000 people, both white and black, showed there to listen. They arrived via car, boat, bus, rail, and foot in addition to by air. They traveled to Washington to press for black people to have equal rights. And the dream that they overheard on the Monument’s steps ended up inspiring an entire generation.

Speakers from nearly every sphere of society were represented on the program, including labor leaders like Walter Reuther, clergy, movie stars like Sidney Poitier and Marlon Brando, and folk singers like Joan Baez. Although each speaker had fifteen minutes to speak, the day belonged to the Southern Christian Leadership Conference’s dynamic young leader.

Originally, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had written a brief and fairly formal account of the struggles African Americans faced in trying to achieve freedom in a society that oppressed them. Mahalia Jackson, a gospel singer, asked him to “Tell them about your dream, Martin! Inform them of the dream! Encouraged by shouts from the audience, King drew upon some of his past talks, and the result became the landmark statement of civil rights in America — a dream of all people, of all races and colors and backgrounds, sharing in an America marked by freedom and democracy.

Birmingham church bombing

Around 10:24 on September 15, 1963, a dynamite bomb detonated in the back stairwell of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in the heart of Birmingham, Alabama. It was a peaceful Sunday morning. Four African-American girls were killed on the other side of the wall by the strong explosion, which also injured over 20 others inside the church. It was evidently an act of racial hatred because the church was a significant site for civil rights meetings and had frequently been the target of bomb threats.

Over 8,000 people attended the public funeral for three of the girls, but no city or state officials were present. A month after the bombing, The Birmingham Post-Herald reported that 23 African Americans had been detained on offenses ranging from disorderly behavior to “being drunk and loitering,” largely in the area of the church. However, no one had been detained for the bombing itself. Police opened fire on a black teenager after he flung pebbles at white-passing automobiles.

It took 45 years until the four individuals who committed the killings were prosecuted. Bobby Frank Cherry and Thomas Blanton, are currently serving their final years in jail; Robert Chambliss already passed away there; and Herman Cash, the fourth, passed away in the middle of the 1990s before any charges could be made against him.