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31 July 2013 @ 09:56 am
Today in History - July 31st  
1916: "First Lady" of NASCAR Louise Smith Born
1965: J. K. Rowling born

1916: "First Lady" of NASCAR Louise Smith Born

On this day in 1916, the future racing legend Louise Smith, who will become the first woman inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame, is born in Barnesville, Georgia.

In the mid-1940s, the racing promoter Bill France was looking for a female driver as a way to attract spectators to some of the earliest events in what would become the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) circuit. Before a race near Greenville, South Carolina, in 1946, he heard of Louise Smith, a local resident who was famous for outrunning law enforcement on the roads. With France's encouragement, Smith entered the race at Greenville-Pickens Speedway in a 1939 Ford and finished third. Unaware that a checkered flag meant the finish line, she kept going beyond the end of the race until someone threw out a red flag.

Though her husband Noah, the owner of a junkyard, didn't approve of her new speed-demon career, Smith was hooked. In 1947, she famously "borrowed" Noah's new car, a Ford coupe, and drove it to watch races in Daytona Beach, Florida. She ended up entering the race herself and wrecking the car, a fact she tried to conceal from him, not knowing that the news had made the front page of the Greenville paper before she returned home. Smith subsequently became a regular on France's new circuit, appearing in NASCAR events throughout the United States and Canada for the next decade. She won 38 races and had some spectacular crashes, including one in which her car overturned, earning her 48 stitches and four pins in her left knee. Dubbed the "Good Ol' Gal" by her fellow drivers, Smith nonetheless struggled in the masculine world of NASCAR. As she told the Associated Press in 1998: "Them men were not liking it to start with and they wouldn't give you an inch."

Smith retired in 1956 but remained active in the racing world: She sponsored various drivers, and was involved in the Miss Southern 500 Scholarship Pageant at Darlington Raceway in South Carolina. In 1999, she was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in Talladega, Alabama. Smith died in April 2006, at the age of 89.

SOURCE: http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/first-lady-of-nascar-louise-smith-born?et_cid=55351713&et_rid=703883316&linkid=http%3a%2f%2fwww.history.com%2fthis-day-in-history%2ffirst-lady-of-nascar-louise-smith-born

1965: J. K. Rowling born

On this day in 1965, Joanne Rowling, better known the world over as J.K. Rowling, the author and creator of the celebrated Harry Potter book series, is born near Bristol, England. Beginning in the late 1990s, Rowling’s seven Harry Potter novels became international blockbusters, selling over 400 million copies and being translated into more than 60 languages. The books also spawned a series of movies, video games and other merchandise that made Rowling one of the wealthiest people in the entertainment industry.

Rowling attended England’s University of Exeter, where she studied French, and later worked for human-rights organization Amnesty International in London and as a language instructor in Portugal. The idea for Harry Potter came to Rowling when she was riding a train from Manchester, England, to London in 1990. She began writing the first book that night. Rowling finished the book while living in Edinburgh, Scotland, where she struggled financially as a single mother and battled depression. Her completed manuscript was turned down by a number of publishers before she got a book deal with Bloomsbury Publishing in August 1996.

The first Harry Potter book debuted in Great Britain in 1997 under the title Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. The book was released in the United States the following year and renamed Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Children and adults alike were captivated by the story of the bespectacled boy wizard Harry, his friends Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger, their adventures at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and Harry’s struggles against his enemy, the evil Lord Voldemort.

On November 16, 2001, the first Harry Potter film, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, opened in America and was a huge box-office success. It was directed by Chris Columbus (Home Alone, Mrs. Doubtfire) and starred British child actor Daniel Radcliffe as Harry Potter, Rupert Grint as Ron and Emma Watson in the role of Hermione. A roster of celebrated actors took supporting roles in the film and its various sequels, including Ralph Fiennes, Maggie Smith, Alan Rickman, Emma Thompson, Richard Harris and Gary Oldman.

The seventh and final (according to Rowling’s predetermined plan) Harry Potter novel, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, debuted in U.S. bookstores on July 21, 2007. Like all the previous Harry Potter books, it is slated to become a movie, to be released in 2010. To date, the Harry Potter films are the most financially successful series in history, having surpassed both the Star Wars and James Bond franchises.

SOURCE: http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/jk-rowling-born
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