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Protecting the POTUS


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Protecting the President of the US: Assassinations, Attempts and Conspiracies

Frequency of Assassinations and Attempts

From George Washington to 1864:
Assassination attempts were made on 1 in 4 presidents
1 in 16 presidents were killed
Since 1865:
Assassination attempts were made on 1 in 4 presidents
1 in 7 have been killed
In the last 30 years:
Three attacks have been made on the presidents
None of these were successful.

The frequency of assassination attempts has remained the same while the success rate has nearly doubled.

Establishment of the Secret Service

Early on, there was little concern for the safety of the POTUS
The first police presence, in Washington, established in 1805
The mayor appointed a high constable and 40 deputies
Threat letters were not taken seriously and presidents did not have protective escorts
Andrew Jackson received many threatening letters
He endorsed the letters and sent them for publication in the Washington Globe
1865: The Secret Service was created to seek out counterfeit currency
1901: The Secret Service expanded to systematic, continuous presidential protection after William McKinley was shot
Presidential protection had been intermittent before then.
1908: The Secret Service began protecting the president-elect
Roosevelt also transferred some SS agents to the Department of Justice to form what would become the FBI
Today the Secret Service protects:
The president and vice president, the president-elect and vice president-elect
Immediate family members the above mentioned
Former presidents and their spouses and children up to age 16
Visiting heads of foreign governments and their spouses
Other individuals per Executive Order of the President
National Special Security Events

Assassinations of the POTUS

Abraham Lincoln
Shot April 15, 1865
Assassin: John Wilkes Booth
Location: Petersen House, Washington, DC
Alleged reasons:
Booth supported slavery and believed Lincoln was determined to overthrow the Constitution
Booth planned to assassinate Lincoln and officials in his administration:

  • General Grant
  • Secretary of State, William Seward
  • Vice President, Andrew Johnson

The hope was to throw the Republican Party into chaos, giving time for the Confederacy to reassemble
Booth was shot by Union soldiers in a barn where he and his accomplice were hiding

James Garfield
Shot July 2, 1881 – died September 19, 1881
Assassin: Charles Guiteau
Location: Baltimore & Potomac Railroad Station in Washington, DC
Alleged reasons:
Guiteau was an unsuccessful lawyer, evangelist and insurance salesman
He felt Garfield owed him a patronage position in the diplomatic corps
He believed Garfield’s decisions were destroying the Republican Party
Guiteau was convicted of murder and hanged on June 30, 1882

William McKinley
Shot September 6,1901 – died September 14
Assassin: Leon Czolgosz
Location: Temple of Music in Buffalo, NY
Alleged reasons:
Czolgosz insisted that, by shooting the president, “I only done my duty.”
Czolgosz said that McKinley was “shouting about prosperity when there was no prosperity for the poor man”.
Czolgosz was charged with First Degree Murder and sent to the Erie County penitentiary

John F. Kennedy
Shot November 22, 1963
Assassin: Lee Harvey Oswald
Location: motorcade through Dealey Plaza, Dallas, TX
Alleged reasons:
Not much is known about Oswald’s motives
Some speculate that Oswald resented authority and wanted to get his name in history
Oswald was shot and killed by Jack Ruby outside the courtroom before his trial

Assassination Attempts

Andrew Jackson
January 30, 1835
Would-be Assassin: Richard Lawrence
Location: a congressional funeral in the Capitol building
Alleged reasons: Lawson believed Jackson had conspired to keep him poor and out of work

Theodore Roosevelt
October 14, 1912
Would-be Assassin: John Flammang Schrank
Location: in an automobile in front of the Hotel Gilpatrick in Milwaukee
Alleged reasons: Schrank said he had nothing again Roosevelt, himself, but against any ‘third-termer’. He shot him as a warning to other ‘third-termers’.
Callout: Roosevelt was shot, but the bullet hit his chest after going through his steel eyeglass case and a 50-page copy of a speech in his pocket. He went on to deliver his 80+ minute speech and went to the hospital afterward.

Franklin D. Roosevelt
February 15, 1933
Would-be Assassin: Guiseppe Zangara
Location: Miami, FL
Alleged reasons: Quote from Guiseppe after his sentencing:
“I decide to kill him and make him suffer. I want to make it 50-50. Since my stomach hurt I want to make even with capitalists by kill the President. My stomach hurt long time.”

Harry S. Truman
November 1, 1950
Would-be Assassins: Puerto Rican nationalists, Griselio Torresola and Oscar Collazo
Location: Blair House, Washington, DC
Reasons: Torresola and Collazo thought the assassination would help the cause for Puerto Rico’s independence.

Gerald Ford
September 5, 1975 and September 22, 1975
Would-be Assassins: Lynette Fromme (Squeaky) and Sarah Jane Moore
Location: Sacramento, CA and San Francisco, CA

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