California History Timeline

I spent the summer of 2006 putting this timeline of California history together, for fun because I’m a big history nerd and because, at the time, I couldn’t find a really good one out there. I haven’t updated it since, but as of  July 2023, I am in the process of beginning to do so, so that I can share it with you and with my subscribers at My California. Please note: I tried to be objective, but it may be slightly skewed toward my interests.

I’ve gone through and updated my 2006 references, particularly for superlatives. For example, in 2006, I wrote that the Santiago Canyon Fire of 1889, which burned 300,000 acres, was the biggest wildfire in California history. Sadly, at least seven wildfires since 2018 have topped that number, including the August Complex wildfire in 2020, which burned over a million acres in Northern California.



20,000 – 15,000 BC First migration from northeast Asia across the Bering Strait into what is now California.
September 28, 1542 Portuguese explorer Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo arrives at what is now San Diego Bay and claims California for Spain.
June 17, 1579 British explorer Sir Francis Drake arrives near what is now San Francisco Bay.
January 26, 1700 Cascadia earthquake (magnitude 8.7 – 9.2). Subduction zone from northern California to Vancouver Island, Canada.
1769 Spanish Mission Period begins.
July 14, 1769 Monterey Bay discovered by Spanish explorer Gaspar de Portola.
July 16, 1769 Mission San Diego de Alcala founded.
November 1, 1769 Entrance to San Francisco Bay discovered by Sgt. Jose Ortega.
November 2, 1769 San Francisco Bay discovered by Spanish explorer Gaspar de Portola.
June 3, 1770 Mission San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo founded.
July 14, 1771 Mission San Antonio de Padua founded.
September 8, 1771 Mission San Gabriel Arcangel founded.
September 1, 1772 Mission San Luis Obispo de Toloso founded.
June 26, 1776 Mission San Francisco de Asis founded.
November 1, 1776 Mission San Juan Capistrano founded.
January 12, 1777 Mission Santa Clara de Asis founded.
April 11, 1778 First recorded executions in California – four Native Americans shot in San Diego for an alleged conspiracy to commit murder.
September 4, 1781 Los Angeles founded.
March 31, 1782 Mission San Buenaventura founded.
December 4, 1786 Mission Santa Barbara founded.
December 8, 1787 Mission La Purisima Concepcion.
August 28, 1791 Mission Santa Cruz founded.
October 9, 1791 Mission Nuestra Senora de la Soledad founded.
July 11, 1797 Mission San Jose founded.
June 24, 1797 Mission San Juan Bautista founded.
July 25, 1797 Mission San Miguel de Arcangel founded.
September 8, 1797 Mission San Fernando Rey de Espana founded.
June 13, 1798 Mission San Luis Rey de Francia founded.
February 2, 1812 Fort Ross established by Russian fur traders.
September 17, 1804 Mission Santa Ines founded.
September 16, 1810 Mexico revolts against Spanish rule and commences a revolutionary war against Spain for its independence.
December 14, 1817 Mission San Rafael Arcangel founded.
November 20, 1818 California’s only pirate, Hyppolyte de Bouchard, raids the Presidio at Monterey, California.
December 14, 1818 Privateer/corsair Hyppolyte de Bouchard attacks Mission San Juan Capistrano, but is rebuffed.
1821 Mexico wins its independence from Spain.
April 11, 1822 At Monterey, Mexico demands the surrender of California to Mexican rule.
July 4, 1823 Mission San Francisco de Solano founded.
1831 Battle of Cahuenga marks the start of California’s revolt against Mexican rule.
September 16, 1834 Mexico secularizes California’s missions, ending the Mission Period.
November 4, 1841 First emigrant wagon train arrives in California after a six-month trip (left Independence, Missouri, on May 1, 1841).
February 20, 1845 Battle of La Providencia begins (also called the Second Battle of Cahuenga Pass).
May 13, 1846 Mexican-American War begins.
June 14, 1846 Bear Flag Revolt: Rebellious settlers raise the Bear Flag in Sonoma’s town square, declaring California a Republic free from Mexican rule.
July 7, 1846 Battle of Monterey; U.S. annexes California.
July 21, 1846 Mormons establish first English settlement in California’s San Joaquin Valley.
January 13, 1847 Cahuenga Capitulation Treaty signed in what is now North Hollywood, California, ending fighting in Mexican-American War.
January 18, 1847 Seven surviving members of the Donner Party arrive at Johnson’s Ranch.
January 30, 1847 Yerba Buena renamed San Francisco.
January 24, 1848 Gold discovered at Sutter’s Mill. Gold Rush era begins.
February 2, 1848 Mexican-American War officially ends with the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. California officially becomes a U.S. territory.
December 5, 1848 President Polk confirms discovery of gold in California, triggering Gold Rush.
February 18, 1849 First regular steamboat service to California.
June 22, 1849 Stephen Massett (better known as Jeemes Pipes of Pipesville) becomes California’s first professional entertainer, giving a concert at the San Francisco Police Office, accompanied by a pianist playing the only piano in northern California.
September 1, 1849 California Constitutional Convention held in Monterey.
October 18, 1849 The Bandit Chief is performed at the Eagle in Sacramento, California’s first professional theater, and becomes the first English-language play performed in the West.
December 20, 1849 Peter Burnett becomes California’s first governor.
January 22, 1850 First daily newspaper published, San Francisco’s Alta California.
September 9, 1850 California becomes the 31st state. Its statehood is fast-tracked due to the Gold Rush, without it having to first become a territory.
1851 Legislation enacted preventing African Americans, Native Americans, and Chinese from testifying against whites in court.
March 21, 1851 Yosemite Valley discovered.
July, 1851 First woman executed in California. “Juanita” is hanged in Sierra County for murder.
July 3, 1852 Congress authorizes establishment of a second U.S. Mint in San Francisco.
March, 1853 Levi Strauss opens his first dry goods shop in San Francisco.
January 9, 1857 Fort Tejon earthquake (magnitude 8.0).
1857 California’s first winery, the Buena Vista Winery in Sonoma, established by Count Agoston Haraszthy.
September 16, 1858 First overland mail service in California.
April, 1862 The California Column (2,000 Union volunteers) begins its 900-mile march to the Rio Grande to drive invading rebel Texans out of the Arizona and New Mexico territories during the Civil War.
April 3, 1860 Pony Express connects California with the Midwest.
April 16, 1862 Anti-Coolie legislation taxes Chinese labor and attempts to discourage Chinese immigration.
May 5, 1862 Mexico’s victory at the Battle of Puebla prevents France from fueling the rebel effort during the Civil War.
1863 Testimony restriction of 1851 repealed.
March 23, 1868 University of California founded in Oakland.
October 21, 1868 Hayward earthquake (magnitude 7.0).
May 10, 1869 First transcontinental railroad completed at Promontory Summit in the Utah territory, connecting California to the east coast.
September 6, 1869 First westbound train arrives in San Francisco.
March 26, 1872 Great Lones Pine earthquake (aka Owens Valley earthquake) (magnitude 7.6).
November 29, 1872 Modoc War begins.
May 20, 1873 Levi Strauss and Jacob Davis receive patent for riveted denim “waist high overalls,” now known as blue jeans.
August 18, 1873 First ascent of Mount Whitney (14,505 feet) by Charles Begole, A.H. Johnson, and John Lucas.
February 27, 1875 Romualdo Pacheco becomes California’s first native-born governor.
April 10, 1878 Cable car service starts in San Francisco.
May 11, 1880 Mussel Slough Tragedy, a land title dispute between settlers and Southern Pacific Railroad, leaves 7 dead.
June 1, 1888 California obtains its first seismograph machine.
September, 1889 Santiago Canyon Fire, the largest fire in California history until 2018, burns an estimated 300,000 acres in San Diego and Orange Counties.
September 25, 1890 Sequoia National Park becomes California’s first national park and the nation’s second national park.
February 24, 1892 Imperial Valley earthquake (magnitude 7.8).
May 1, 1892 U.S. Quarantine Station opened at Angel Island in San Francisco Bay.
May 28, 1892 Sierra Club founded by John Muir.
March 3, 1893 First legalized, state-conducted executions in California. Jose Gabriel hanged at San Quentin for murdering an elderly farm couple.
1905 11-year old Frank Epperson of San Francisco invents the popsicle.
July 8, 1905 Part of Angel Island allocated as an immigration detention center.
April 18, 1906 Great San Francisco Earthquake and Fire (magnitude 8.3).
January 16, 1908 Pinnacles National Monument established.
June 8, 1908 Muir Woods National Monument established.
June 17, 1909 Release date for “In the Sultan’s Power,” the first movie filmed completely in Los Angeles (filming started in 1908).
1910 Angel Island opens as an immigration station, known as “The Ellis Island of the West,” the “North Garrison” and the “Guardian of the Western Gate.”
January 2, 1910 First junior high school in the United States opens in Berkeley, California.
Fall 1911 First movie studio opens in Hollywood, Nestor Studios.
October 10, 1911 Special election held ratifying the 8th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and granting suffrage to women.
1913 First California branch of the NAACP established.
1913 Los Angeles Aqueduct completed.
May 19, 1913 Alien Land Law enacted, precluding Asian immigrants from owning property in California.
July 10, 1913 Temperature reaches 134 degrees Fahrenheit (57 degrees Centigrade) at Greenland Ranch (now Furnace Creek) in Death Valley, California. Highest recorded temperature in the world.
October 31, 1913 Lincoln Highway dedicated, connecting New York City to San Francisco.
1914 Skeletal remains of prehistoric woman (La Brea Woman) dating 9,000 BP recovered in the Los Angeles Basin at the La Brea Tar Pits.
February 20, 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition (World’s Fair) opens in San Francisco, celebrating completion of the Panama Canal and the 400th anniversary of discovery of Pacific Ocean by Balboa, and showcasing San Francisco’s recovery from the 1906 earthquake.
March 9, 1915 Panama-California Exposition opens in San Diego.
1919 William Randolph Hearst begins construction of Hearst Castle in San Simeon, designed by architect Julia Morgan.
September 11, 1921 Following the death of aspiring actress Virginia Frappe, Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle is arrested and charged with her murder.  Although subsequently cleared, the resulting scandal destroys his career.
April 8, 1922 Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle becomes the first actor to be officially blacklisted in Hollywood.
September 8, 1923 Honda Point Disaster. Seven destroyers run aground in largest peacetime loss of U.S. Navy ships.
December 12, 1925 World’s first motel opens in San Luis Obispo, California.
April 28, 1926 General Grant Tree in Kings Canyon National Park designated “Nation’s Christmas Tree” by President Calvin Coolidge.
May 18, 1926 Los Angeles Evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson (“Sister Aimee”) vanishes while at Venice Beach, California, and is assumed drowned.
June 23, 1926 Aimee Semple McPherson resurfaces, claiming to have been kidnapped and held for ransom. Evidence that she may have instead run away with her married sound engineer ignites scandal.
November 11, 1926 U.S. Route 66 established, tracing a route 2,448 miles from Chicago, Illinois, to Los Angeles, California.
April 28, 1927 Ryan Airlines Corporation completes construction of The Spirit of St. Louis in San Diego, setting the stage for Charles Lindbergh’s non-stop, transatlantic flight from New York to Paris the following month.
May 18, 1927 Grauman’s Chinese Theater opens in Hollywood.
May 16, 1929 First Academy Awards ceremony held in the Blossom Room of the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel.
1931 In the midst of the Great Depression, severe drought and dust storms make farming in Oklahoma impossible, sparking the Dust Bowl migration from Oklahoma to California.
1932 California begins keeping official wildfire records.
September 1932 Matilija Fire in Ventura County burns 220,000 acres. The biggest fire in the early part of the 20th century.
July 30, 1932 Opening ceremony of 10th Olympiad (summer Olympic Games), hosted in Los Angeles.
August 24, 1932 Amelia Earhart takes off from Los Angeles, California, landing in Newark, New Jersey, a record-breaking 19 hours, 5 minutes, later, becoming the first woman to fly solo coast-to-coast.
March 10, 1933 Long Beach earthquake (magnitude 6.4).
August, 1934 Alcatraz Island Penitentiary opens as a federal maximum security prison.
1935 Statewide irrigation system established.
January 11, 1935 Amelia Earhart becomes first person to fly solo across the Pacific Ocean, from Honolulu, Hawaii, to Oakland, California.
November 22, 1935 China Clipper leaves Alameda, California, on first transpacific airmail flight, carrying 100,000 pieces of mail.
1936 Skeletal remains of prehistoric man (Los Angeles Man or LA Man) recovered in Los Angeles Basin.
1936 Route 66 extended to Santa Monica, California.
March 1, 1936 Hoover Dam completed in Nevada, providing power and water to Southern California.
May 27, 1937 Golden Gate Bridge opened to pedestrian traffic.
May 28, 1937 Golden Gate Bridge opened to automobile traffic.
December 2, 1938 First executions in California’s lethal gas chamber. Robert Lee Cannon and Albert Kessel executed at San Quentin for murder.
April 14, 1939 John Steinbeck publishes The Grapes of Wrath.
February 29, 1940 Hattie McDaniel becomes the first African American to win an Academy Award, receiving Best Supporting Actress honors for her work in 1939’s Gone With the Wind.
May 6, 1940 The Grapes of Wrath is awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction (then called the Pulitzer Prize for the Novel).
December 30, 1940 California’s first freeway opens: the Arroyo Seco Parkway.
November 21, 1941 Eithel Leta Juanita Spinelli executed at San Quentin for murdering a member of her robbery gang. Becomes first woman executed legally in California and first woman to die in California’s gas chamber.
February 19, 1942 President Franklin D. Roosevelt signs Executive Order 9066, ordering Japanese evacuation and internment in California relocation camps.
February 23, 1942 A Japanese submarine shells an oil refinery north of Santa Barbara, sparking fear of a West Coast invasion.
June 3-8, 1943 Zoot Suit Riots erupt in Los Angeles. American servicemen attacked young Mexican American, Latino, African American, and Filipino men wearing zoot suits in a series of race-related riots.
July 17, 1944 Port Chicago Disaster. An explosion of war ammunition aboard a naval cargo vessel in Contra Costa County kills 320 and injures 400.
December 17, 1944 Japanese Relocation rescinded. Japanese Americans released from detention centers.
August 31, 1946 San Francisco 49ers play their first game, defeating the Chicago Rockets at Kezar Stadium 34-14.
1947 California becomes first state to enact sex offender registration laws.
January 15, 1947 The Black Dahlia Murder. Elizabeth Short brutally murdered in Los Angeles.
November 2, 1947 Howard Hughes demonstrates the flying capability of his famous “flying boat,” the Spruce Goose, by flying it over the Long Beach harbor.
November 24, 1947 During its investigation of the Hollywood film industry, the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAAC) finds the Hollywood Ten in contempt when they refuse to answer questions, citing their rights under the 1st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
January 1, 1948 First color newsreel filmed in Pasadena.
January 19, 1948 Oyama vs. California. Without reaching the question of the constitutionality of California’s Alien Land Laws, the United States Supreme Court rules that the laws deprived minor American citizens of equal protection of the laws and privileges with respect to property gifted to them by their ineligible alien parents.
1949 Frank Zamboni applies for a patent for his Model A Zamboni Ice Resurfacer, which he invented to resurface the 20,000 square foot ice rink he and his brother Lawrence owned in Paramount, California.
1950 Ebony Showcase Theatre and Cultural Arts Center founded by actor Nick Stewart and his wife Edna to provide more legitimate acting opportunities for  Black actors.
September 17, 1950 In their NFL debut game, San Francisco 49ers are defeated by the New York Yankees 21-17.
August 28, 1951 Stoumen vs. Reilly. California Supreme Court rules State Board of Equalization cannot revoke a bar’s license based on the clientele it attracts, e.g., prostitutes, or in this particular case, “persons of known homosexual tendencies” who frequented the Black Cat in San Francisco’s Castro district.
July 21, 1952 Bakersfield earthquake (aka Kern County earthquake) (magnitude 7.5).
March 15, 1953 First televised Academy Awards ceremony held at the RKO Pantages Theatre.
May 18, 1953 Jacqueline (“Jackie”) Cochran becomes the first woman to break the sound barrier when she files a Canadair F-86 Sabre jet at Rogers Dry Lake, California.
1954 In Berkeley, David Blackwell becomes first African American to be appointed full professor at University of California.
July 17, 1955 Disneyland opens in Anaheim, Orange County.
March 29, 1956 General Grant Tree in Kings Canyon National Park designated only living National Shrine by President Dwight D. Eisenhower.
April 2, 1958 Herb Caen of the San Francisco Chronicle coins the term “beatnik” as a derogatory term to describe members of the Beat Generation.
April 15, 1958 First baseball game in California. San Francisco Giants beat the Los Angeles Dodgers 8-0.
June 2, 1958 Hearst Castle opens for visitors as part of California’s State Parks system.
1959 Prehistoric remains of Arlington Springs Woman discovered on Santa Rosa Island dating back to 13,000 BP, oldest known skeleton in North America.
May 4, 1959 First Grammy Awards ceremony held in the Grand Ballroom of the Beverly Hilton Hotel.
June 16, 1959 Actor George Reeves, best known for his portrayal of Superman in television’s The Adventures of Superman, is found dead of a gunshot wound in his Benedict Canyon home.
1962 Cesar Chavez founds the United Farm Workers (UFW).
August 5, 1962 Actress Marilyn Monroe found dead of a drug overdose in her Brentwood home.
October 25, 1962 John Steinbeck is awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature for his 1939 novel, The Grapes of Wrath.
March 21, 1963 Alcatraz Island prison closed.
September 7, 1963 American Bandstand moves to California.
April 13, 1964 Sidney Poitier becomes first African American to win Academy Award for Best Actor for his work in 1963’s Lilies of the Field.
October 1, 1964 Following an attempt by campus officials to forbid student activism, and the arrest of an individual manning a table for the Congress of Racial Equality (“CORE”), UC Berkeley students surround the police car for 36 hours and begin a 63-day sit-in, which ends on December 3rd when 800 students are arrested. The protest sparks the Free Speech Movement and is a pivotal event in the Civil Liberties Movement.
January 1, 1965 Attendees at a New Year’s Eve costume ball to raise funds for the Council on Religion and the Homosexual harassed by police. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) took the case, which was ultimately dismissed, but which marked a turning point in the gay rights movement.
August 11, 1965 Watts Riots break out in South Central Los Angeles following the arrest of an African American motorist and his family and reports of subsequent police brutality, igniting building racial tensions.
December 10, 1965 The Grateful Dead perform their first show at the Fillmore Auditorium in San Francisco.
October, 1966 Black Panther Party for Self Defense founded in Oakland by Huey Newton and Bobby Seale.
January 5, 1967 Ronald Reagan takes office as Governor of California.
January 14, 1967 Counterculture icon Timothy Leary speaks at the “Human Be-In” at San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park and coins the phrase, “Turn on, tune in, drop out.”
Summer, 1967 “Summer of Love” in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury. San Francisco Chronicle columnist popularizes the term “hippie.”
June 5, 1968 Robert F. Kennedy shot in Los Angeles by Sirhan Sirhan. He dies the following morning.
1969 Douglas Dollarhide of Compton becomes California’s first African American mayor.
August 9, 1969 Actress Sharon Tate, coffee heiress Abigail Folger, and three others are murdered by the Manson Family (followers of Charles Manson) at Roman Polanski’s Benedict Canyon mansion (Tate-LaBianca Murders).
August 10, 1969 Leno and Rosemary LaBianca are murdered by the Manson Family in their Hollywood home  (Tate-LaBianca Murders).
November 9, 1969 Native Americans begin a 19-month occupation of Alcatraz Island.
July 6, 1970 California is the first state to enact no-fault divorce laws.
August 7, 1970 Seventeen-year-old Jonathan Jackson frees three San Quentin prisoners from a San Rafael courthouse at gunpoint and takes a judge, a prosecutor, and several jurors hostage in a failed attempt to demand the release of his brother George, a militant activist, and two other Soledad Prison inmates (the “Soledad Brothers”) charged with killing a prison guard.  Radical activist Angela Davis is implicated as a conspirator.
September 26, 1970 Laguna Fire destroys 175,425 acres in San Diego County; California’s third largest wildfire.
February 9, 1971 Sylmar earthquake, San Fernando Valley (magnitude 6.7)
August 21, 1971 Militant activist George Jackson, a member of the Black Panther Party, is killed at Soledad Prison in what is officially recorded as an escape attempt.
February 18, 1972 California Supreme Court abolishes death penalty.
April 10, 1972 Isaac Hayes becomes the first African American to win an Academy Award in a music category when he lands Oscar for best original song for his 1971 Theme from Shaft.
June 5, 1972 Angela Davis acquitted by an all-white jury in San Jose of all charges in connection with the failed 8/07/70 escape and kidnap attempt at the San Rafael Hall of Justice in Marin County.
May 29, 1973 Tom Bradley becomes first African American elected Mayor of Los Angeles.
February 4, 1974 Heiress Patty Hearst, granddaughter of newspaper publishing legend William Randolph Hearst, kidnapped by Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA).
September 5, 1975 Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme, a member of the Manson Family, attempts to assassinate President Gerald Ford in Sacramento.
September 22, 1975 Sara Jane Moore attempts to assassinate President Gerald Ford in San Francisco, but the assassination attempt is foiled by bystander Oliver “Billy” Sipple. Gay activists and the media celebrated Sipple as a hero but also outed Sipple as gay, which was a huge boon for gay rights but caused Sipple’s estrangement from his family.
1976 California’s anti-gay Sodomy Law repealed.
April 1, 1976 Stephen Wozniak and Steven Jobs found Apple Computer company in Silicon Valley and introduce the Apple I personal computer prototype the following month.
September 17, 1976 The first space shuttle, Enterprise, is unveiled in Pasadena.
1977 Wiley Manuel becomes first African American to serve as a Justice on the California Supreme Court.
March 26, 1977 Rose Bird becomes first woman to serve on California Supreme Court and first woman to serve as Chief Justice.
June 10, 1977 Apple Computer ships its first Apple II computer, the world’s first highly successful, mass-produced personal computer.
November, 1978 California voters reaffirm death penalty.
January 20, 1981 Ronald Reagan becomes the first and only former California Governor to take office as President of the United States.
July 1, 1981 Wonderland Murders (aka Laurel Canyon Murders). In apparent retaliation for a robbery, a group of drug dealers known as the Wonderland Gang are bludgeoned to death.  Porn star John Holmes and wealthy drug dealer/nightclub owner Eddie Nash are charged, Holmes with murder and Nash with planning the murders.  Both are acquitted.  Nash is later convicted of conspiring to plan the murders.
January 24, 1982 San Francisco 49ers claim their first Superbowl victory, defeating the Cincinnati Bengals 26-21 at the Pontiac Silverdome in Pontiac, Michigan. Quarterback Joe Montana is named MVP.
May 2, 1983 Coalinga earthquake (magnitude 6.5).
January 24, 1984 Apple Computer unveils its Macintosh personal computer.
July 28, 1984 Opening ceremony of 23rd Olympiad (summer Olympic Games), hosted in Los Angeles.
November, 1984 Voters approve California lottery.
June 27, 1985 Route 66 decommissioned.
April 8, 1986 Actor Clint Eastwood elected mayor of Carmel, California.
April 19, 1987 Last wild California condor taken into captivity in an attempt to prevent extinction.
October 1, 1987 Whittier Narrows earthquake (magnitude 5.9).
April 12, 1988 Sonny Bono elected mayor of Palm Springs.
October 17, 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake (magnitude 7.1) occurs during World Series game between San Francisco Giants and Oakland Athletics.
April 4, 1991 Sacramento Hostage Crisis. After a botched robbery attempt at another location, four Vietnamese refugees take 41 people hostage in a Good Guys electronics store, launching the largest hostage rescue operation in U.S. history.
October 20, 1991 Oakland Firestorm (aka Oakland Hills Firestorm, East Bay Hills fire and Tunnel fire).
April 29, 1992 Los Angeles Riots erupt following acquittal of LAPD officers accused of beating African American motorist Rodney King.
January 17, 1994 Northridge earthquake (magnitude 6.7). Most costly earthquake in U.S. history, causing $44 billion in damage, only $15 billion of which was covered by insurance. 60 lives were lost and 7,000 people were injured.
June 17, 1994 Following the June 12th murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman, suspect O.J. Simpson fails to surrender himself to the police as agreed.  When Simpson is spotted several hours later, traveling in a white Ford Bronco on I-405 (the San Diego Freeway), the entire nation watches on live television as law enforcement engages in a slow speed chase lasting over two hours and culminating in the driveway of Simpson’s Brentwood home.
October 3, 1995 O.J. Simpson found “not guilty” of murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman in criminal trial.
February 23, 1996 Serial killer William George Bonin becomes first California inmate killed by lethal injection. Executed for murder of 14 young boys in Los Angeles and Orange Counties.
February 4, 1997 O.J. Simpson found liable for wrongful death of Ronald Goldman and batteries against Ronald Goldman and Nicole Brown Simpson in civil trial and ordered to pay $33.5 million in damages.
March 27, 1997 Heaven’s Gate mass suicide. 39 members of the Heaven’s Gate cult commit suicide near San Diego, believing their souls will reach an alien spaceship hiding behind the Comet Hale-Bopp.
January 1, 1998 California ban on smoking in bars and restaurants goes into effect.
March 24, 2002 Halle Berry becomes first African American woman to win Academy Award for Best Actress for her work in 2001’s Monster’s Ball. Denzel Washington wins the Best Actor award for his work in Training Day, marking the first time African American actors won both awards in the same year.
October 8, 2003 Arnold Schwarzenegger elected Governor of California.
October 25, 2003 Cedar Fire ignited in San Diego County. Second largest wildfire in California history until 2018, consuming 280,278 acres. One of 15 wildfires that month, including Old Fire, Piru Fire, Simi Incident Fire, and Paradise Fire; fanned by Santa Ana winds, the wildfires combined destroy a total of 721,791 acres in southern California.
November 20, 2003 Solana Beach is first California city to ban smoking on beaches.
December 22, 2003 San Simeon earthquake (magnitude 6.6).
September 28, 2004 Parkfield earthquake (magnitude 6.0).
March 17, 2006 Toughest smoking ban in the country goes into effect in Calabasas, California. The Comprehensive Second Hand Smoke Control Ordinance bans smoking in all public places, whether indoor or outdoor.
March 27, 2006 For first time in more than 100 years, wild California condors found nesting in Big Sur redwood.
August 25, 2006 Hyperion, a coast redwood measuring 378.1 feet tall, discovered in Redwood National Park near Eureka, breaking record as tallest living thing.
August 2020 August Complex wildfire burns 1,032,648 acres in Colusa, Glenn, Humboldt, Lake, Mendocino, Tehama, and Trinity counties. The fire destroyed 935 structures and claimed one life. Biggest wildfire in California history.
June 2023 Los Angeles County publicly apologizes for the Zoot Suit Riots.