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1961 was the 90th year after the founding of the city of Birmingham.



Civil Rights Movement











See also: List of homicides in 1961



  • The Moviegoer, National Book Award-winning novel by Walker Percy.
  • Revolutionary Road, National Book Award finalist by Richard Yates.




In 1961, the U.S. severed diplomatic relations with Cuba. John F. Kennedy succeeded Dwight Eisenhower as President. The Beatles began performing at the Cavern Club. Lawrencium was first synthesized. The Peace Corps was established. Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first human in space. The Bay of Pigs Invasion of Cuba failed. Alan Shepard became the first American in space. President Kennedy announced his goal to put a man on the Moon before the end of the decade. The Antarctic Treaty went into effect. Roger Maris beat Babe Ruth's single-season home run record. Mattel introduced Barbie's boyfriend, Ken.

Top grossing films of 1961 included West Side Story, One Hundred and One Dalmatians, The Guns of Navarone, El Cid, Splendor in the Grass, and Breakfast at Tiffany's. West Side Story also took Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Director (Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins), Best Supporting Actor (George Chakiris), and Best Supporting Actress (Rita Moreno). Best Actor went to Maximilian Schell (Judgment at Nuremberg) and Best Actress went to Sophia Loren (Two Women).

Notable books published in 1961 included Catch-22 by Joseph Heller, The Incredible Journey by Sheila Burnford, James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl, The Stainless Steel Rat by Harry Harrison, and Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein. The Pulitzer Prize for Fiction went to To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.

Popular music in 1961 included "Runaround Sue" by Dion, "Runaway" by Del Shannon, "Stand By Me" by Ben E King, "Big Bad John" by Jimmy Dean, and "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" by The Tokens. Grammy Awards went to Percy Faith for "Theme From A Summer Place" (Record of the Year), Bob Newhart for The Button-Down Mind of Bob Newhart (Album of the Year and Best New Artist), and Ernest Gold for "Theme of Exodus" (Song of the Year).

Notable births in 1961 included actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus; hockey player Wayne Gretzky; singer Vince Neal; journalist George Stephanopoulos; singer Susan Boyle; comedian Eddie Murphy; comedian George Lopez; basketball player Isiah Thomas; actor George Clooney; basketball player Dennis Rodman; musician Enya; actor Michael J. Fox; musician Boy George; Diana, Princess of Wales; singer Toby Keith; actor Woody Harrelson; President Barack Obama; guitarist The Edge; journalist Bob Woodruff; singer Billy Ray Cyrus; actress Heather Locklear; film director Peter Jackson; singer k.d. lang; actor Ralph Macchio; actress Meg Ryan; author Ann Coulter; and radio host Sean Hannity.

Notable deaths included physicist Erwin Schrödinger, King Mohammed V of Morocco, conductor Sir Thomas Beecham, actor Gary Cooper, psychiatrist Carl Jung, inventor Lee De Forest, writer Ernest Hemingway, baseball player Ty Cobb, comedian Chico Marx, and humorist James Thurber.

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