The List September 2005

Assassination Attempts

When a live grenade landed near President George W. Bush while he was addressing thousands of Georgians in Tbilisi's Freedom Square, in May, he joined the fraternity of U.S. presidents who have been objects of assassination attempts. Of the fifteen presidents and former presidents targeted, four (Lincoln, Garfield, McKinley, and Kennedy) were killed. Here are the ten others who survived.

1. Andrew Jackson (January 30, 1835). As Jackson walked through the Capitol, Richard Lawrence, an unemployed house painter, shot two pistols at him, both of which misfired. Lawrence became the first person ever charged with the attempted assassination of a U.S. president.

2. Theodore Roosevelt (October 14, 1912). Inspired by a dream in which William McKinley told him to shoot the president, John Schrank, a New York bartender, shot Roosevelt during a campaign rally in Milwaukee. Roosevelt survived—perhaps because the bullet had to pass through the fifty-page speech he was carrying in his coat—and delivered his speech before getting medical treatment.

3. Franklin D. Roosevelt (February 15, 1933). Giuseppe Zangara, a bricklayer, fired his .32 caliber revolver at FDR as the president-elect waved to supporters from a convertible in Miami's Bayfront Park. The bullets missed Roosevelt but hit Mayor Anton Cermak of Chicago, who died three weeks later.

4. Harry Truman (November 1, 1950). The Puerto Rican nationalists Oscar Collazo and Griselio Torresola stormed Blair House, across the street from the White House, where Truman was taking a nap. In the ensuing gunfight with White House policemen and the Secret Service the would-be assassins wounded two and killed one. Torresola was also killed.

5. Richard Nixon (February 22, 1974). Two years after the Secret Service first investigated him for threats against Nixon, Samuel Byck shot his way past security and boarded a commercial airplane in Baltimore, intending to hijack it and fly into the White House. When informed that wheel blocks prevented takeoff, Byck shot the pilot and co-pilot and then killed himself.

6. Gerald Ford (September 5 & 22, 1975). The first attempt occurred in Sacramento's Capitol Park, where Lynnette "Squeaky" Fromme, a Charles Manson disciple, pulled a .45 caliber pistol. (Fromme was seized by Secret Service agents before she could get off a shot.) Seventeen days later, in front of San Francisco's St. Francis Hotel, Sara Jane Moore, a nursing student turned radical, fired a .38 at Ford. The shot missed because a bystander yanked on her arm.

7. Jimmy Carter (May 5, 1979). Raymond Lee Harvey, a transient carrying a .22 caliber starter's pistol, was arrested at the Los Angeles Civic Center Mall ten minutes before the president was to give a speech there. While in custody Harvey implicated another man in the crowd, who admitted that he and Harvey had been hired to create a diversion for two Mexican hit men who planned to kill Carter with rifle shots.

8. Ronald Reagan (March 30, 1981). John Hinckley Jr.—seeking to impress the actress Jodie Foster—fired six shots at the president as he was leaving the Washington Hilton. Reagan recovered from a chest wound, but his press secretary, James Brady, was partially paralyzed by a bullet in the head.

9. George H.W. Bush (April 14, 1994). As Bush prepared for an appearance at Kuwait University, a car carrying explosives was reportedly smuggled across the Iraqi-Kuwaiti border, part of an assassination plot allegedly cooked up by Saddam Hussein. The car bomb was found and sixteen suspected terrorists were apprehended by Kuwaiti officials.

10. Bill Clinton (October 29, 1994). While Clinton sat watching football in the White House, Francisco Martin Duran, a former hotel upholsterer, fired a machine gun at "men in dark suits" standing on the back lawn, hoping one of them was the president. Duran was tackled by tourists.

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