It is perhaps interesting to note that 1881 was a US Presidential assasination year: James A. Garfield (who, in 1876, discovered a proof of the Pythagorean Theorem, not that there weren't plenty of them lying about already, but still...) took a bullet in the back and was succeeded by Chester A. Arthur. Sigh. The brave new world that might have been.
1991 is kind of a blur, it was a college year for me ...but its legacy seems to be the Gulf War and Clarence Thomas. Perhaps palindromic years are notable only for being ignominious.