Assassinations and Attempted Assassinations of US Presidents

With the wide range of candidates vying for the White House in 2008, many of them will be disappointed, while only one can prevail. To buck up the spirits of the also-rans, here’s a little list of famous unfortunate exits and almost-exits from the Oval Office. Sure, you never got elected, but at least none of these have happened to you!


Number one with a… well, number one anyway. Much is written about both Lincoln’s and Kennedy’s assassinations, but the two that are lesser-known are James Garfield and William McKinley.

Garfield was shot on July 2, 1881, by one Charles J. Guiteau, who was caught, tried, and hanged. There is no doubt that Guiteau was insane. He wrote a speech originally in support of Ulysses S. Grant, which he hastily changed to support Garfield after Garfield won the Republican nomination. He delivered this speech, then sought to be hired as an ambassador by Garfield in repayment for his service. Garfield’s staff repeatedly threw him out, so then Guiteau decided that God wanted him to kill Garfield. With a gun purchased for fifteen dollars which he had borrowed, he did just that, stalking the President to the Baltimore and Potomac Railroad Station, where Garfield was going to embark on a vacation.

McKinley’s killer was more straight-forward. McKinley was shot on September 5, 1901, as he appeared at the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York, where he was greeting the public at one of the exhibits. One Leon Czolgosz, a political anarchist, simply stepped forward from the crowd and shot McKinley. He was immediately captured and beaten by the crowd, then arrested, tried, and electrocuted. His motives were purely political, as he stated at his trial that he believed he’d killed an enemy of the people.

Attempted Assassination:

We all know about the attempt to assassinate Ronald Reagan, being such a recent event. Here are the other serious attempts at taking the life of former Presidents.

Richard Lawrence tried to shoot Andrew Jackson at a funeral on January 30, 1835. Lawrence was mentally disturbed and this is supposed to have been caused by his having worked at a paint factory inhaling fumes. He pulled not one, but two pistols out to shoot at Jackson with, but they both misfired. Jackson himself responded by beating Lawrence with his cane, and the crowd subdued Lawrence and carried him off. Lawrence lived the rest of his life in an institution.

On November 1, 1950, two Puerto Rican Nationalists by the names of Griselio Torresola and Oscar Collazo got awfully close to assassinating Harry S. Truman. They made it as far as the outside of his home, where they shot one police officer before being overpowered. Torresola and Collazo served life in prison. The attack was politically motivated over anger with the treatment of Puerto Rico.

As if Gerald Ford didn’t have enough problems already, there were two assassination attempts on his life, within seventeen days of each other! First on September 5, 1975, when Ford was making a public appearance in Sacramento, California, a member of the infamous Charles Manson cult named Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme pointed a gun at Ford, but a Secret Service agent did one of their famous dives and grabbed the gun out of her hand, stopping her from firing. The second was when Ford was again making a public appearance in San Francisco, California, on September 22, 1975, when Sara Jane Moore fired a shot at Ford that missed before also being subdued. Moore was believed to be unrelated to the Manson gang and was apparently motivated by an obsession over the Patty Hearst kidnapping, the news events at the time, and a conviction that Ford was bad for the country. Both women are currently serving life in prison.


Assassinations and Attempted Assassinations of US Presidents