Anyone living their lives in the glare of publicity, whether it is through celebrity or public office, runs the risk of an assassination attempt.
The 180th anniversary of the first attempt on the life of an American President falls on January 30th 2015. On this day an English painter by the name of Richard Lawrence entered the Capitol Building and fired two flintlock pistols at the President, Andrew Jackson. Fortunately for the President both pistols misfired, and acting quickly, Jackson knocked the would-be assassin to the ground with his cane as congressmen and members of the public came to his aide.
Lawrence was arrested and later found not guilty of attempted murder by reason of insanity. Many may think that a plea of insanity may have been a ploy by the defence council to ensure he didn’t receive the death penalty, but Lawrence had suffered from mental illness for many years, and had once convinced himself he was King Richard III.
Richard Lawrence was committed to a mental institution where he remained until his death on June 13th 1861.
Since this first attempt on the life of a President of the United States of America there have been several further attempts and, unfortunately, four deaths have occurred.
The Assassination of Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln survived two attempts on his life before his assassination in 1865.
The first attempt on Lincoln’s life, known as the Baltimore plot was an alleged conspiracy which took place in February 1861. It is believed that a plan had been hatched to assassinate Abraham Lincoln as he travelled through Baltimore, Maryland en-route to his inauguration. The second assassination attempt occurred three years later. While out riding the President’s horse bolted at the sound of gunfire. No one realised at the time that the gun had been aimed at the President. Close inspection of Lincoln’s hat showed that it had a bullet hole it.
Abraham Lincoln, 16th President of the United States was shot while attending a performance of a play ‘Our American Cousin’ at Ford’s Theatre, Washington DC on April 14th 1865. Shot by John Wilkes Booth, Lincoln died of his injuries the following day.
The Assassination of James A. Garfield
The third assassination of a President, James A. Garfield, took place on July 2nd 1881.
President Garfield, the 20th President of the United States, was due to leave Washington to begin his summer vacation. He was making his way to the Baltimore and Potomac railroad station with his sons, James and Henry. As he entered the building, Garfield was approached by Charles Guiteau who fired a gun at the President at point blank range. Although Garfield survived the initial shooting, he died on September 19th 1881 from a heart attack brought on by blood poisoning and bronchial pneumonia.
Charles Guiteau was found guilty of the assassination of President James A. Garfield and executed by hanging on June 30th 1882.
The Assassination of William McKinley
William McKinley, 25th President of the United States of America was shot on September 6th 1901 while attending the Pan-American Exposition, a World Fair held in Buffalo, New York from May 1st –November 2nd 1901.
The President was greeting a line of people when Leon Czolgosz stepped forward and shot him twice. Initially the President survived the attempt on his life and seemed to be making a recovery, but died on September 14th from infection and gangrene.
Czolgosz was tried and on receipt of a guilty verdict received the death sentence which was carried out on October 29th 1901.
The Assassination of John F. Kennedy
Possibly one of the most famous assassinations of a public figure took place in the full glare of the media on November 22nd 1963 in Dallas, Texas.
John Fitzgerald Kennedy, 35th President of the United States of America was travelling in an open topped car as part of a motorcade making its way along Dealey Plaza, Dallas. His wife, Jacqueline, was at his side when a gun shot rang out hitting the President.
The Warren Commission and the House Select Committee on Assassination found that President John F. Kennedy was hit by a bullet which entered his body through his back and exited though his neck before penetrating Governor Connolly who was sitting in front of him. A second bullet struck the President in the head.
The fatally injured President was rushed to Parkland Memorial Hospital where he was officially pronounced dead.
Lee Harvey Oswald was arrested and charged with the assassination of John F. Kennedy but he never got to trail. Oswald proclaimed his innocence to anyone who would listen, claiming he was a patsy for the ‘real assassin’. Oswald was murdered two days later as he was transferred from Dallas Police head quarters to the Dallas County Jail. He was shot at point blank range by night club owner Jack Ruby.