by Tamera Lynn Kraft
When asked what US presidents were assassinated while in office, most people remember John F. Kennedy and Abraham Lincoln. Would it surprise you to know there were four presidents assassinated? There were also two presidents who died in office and were rumored to be assassinated, and 30 unsuccessful assassination plots or attempts. Here is a list of the assassinated presidents.
Abraham Lincoln was the first and most famous president to be assassinated. He was shot by John Wilkes Booth at Ford Theater on Good Friday, April 14, 1865. After shooting the president, Booth jumped onto the stage, breaking his ankle, and shouting “Sic semper tyrannis” ( “Thus always to tyrants”). Booth was a Confederate sympathizer and was against abolition of slaves. He was part of a larger conspiracy where the vice-president and secretary-of-state were also targeted, but Lincoln was the only one killed. Booth was shot a few days later, and 8 other conspirators were hanged.
James A. Garfield was shot on Saturday, July 2, 1881, in Washington DC, by Charles Julius Guiteau less than four months after taking the oath of office. Garfield’s son, James Rudolph Garfield, and Secretary of State James Blaine, both broke down and wept. Secretary of War Robert Todd Lincoln, thinking back to the assassination of his father, said, “How many hours of sorrow I have passed in this town.” Garfield died eleven days later from complications and infection. Guiteau was immediately arrested, and after being found guilty, was hanged. Guiteau was assessed as mentally unbalanced and possibly suffered from some kind of bipolar disorder or from the effects of syphilis on the brain. He claimed to have shot Garfield out of disappointment for being passed over for appointment as Ambassador to France.
William McKinley was shot September 6th, 1901 on the grounds of the Pan-American Exposition at the Temple of Music in Buffalo, New York. Leon Czolgosz shot him while he was shaking hands with the public. McKinley staggered backwards and to the right, but was prevented from falling by Cortelyou, Milburn, and Detective Geary who guided him to a chair. Seeing men beating Czolgosz, McKinley ordered it stopped. He then expressed concern for his wife. He was then carried out by an electric ambulance. After an operation and apparent recovery, he died of gangrene eight days later. Czolgosz was an anarchist who had lost his job during the economic Panic of 1893. He considered McKinley as a symbol of oppression and was convinced that it was his duty as an anarchist to kill McKinley. After being found guilty, Czolgosz was executed in the electric chair. After this, the Secret Service was assigned to protect the president.
John F. Kennedy was shot by a sniper on Friday, November 22, 1963 while riding with his wife in a motorcade in Dallas, Texas. He died instantly. Texas Governor John Connelly was also shot but recovered. Lee Harvey Oswald, a former Marine who had become a communist was arrested for the crime. Two days later, Jack Ruby, a nightclub owner distressed by the assignation, shot and killed Oswald. He was convicted and spent life in prison. The Warren Commission ruled Oswald acted alone, but to this day, many people believe he had help.
2 Presidents Rumored to Assassinated:
Zachary Taylor died on July 9th, 1850 of cholera morbus, a term that included diarrhea and dysentery, likely caused by food poisoning. In the late 1980s, author Clara Rising raised the possibility Taylor was murdered by poison. She convinced Taylor’s closest living relative and the coroner of Jefferson County, Kentucky to order an exhumation. The tests showed arsenic in Taylor’s system, but it was much less than they would have expected if he had been poisoned.
Warren G. Harding died on August 2nd, 1923 of a heart attack or stroke brought on by food poisoning and pneumonia. While traveling in Alaska and Canada, Harding had been informed of corruption in his administration which he claimed to know nothing about. He gave a speech in Seattle, Washington, then fell ill. His train proceeded to San Francis where he died in a hotel there. Doctors said he died of a stroke, but the Hardings’ personal medical advisor disagreed with the diagnosis. His wife, Florence Harding, refused permission for an autopsy. This led to speculation that the President had been the victim of a plot, possibly carried out by his wife. Harding apparently had been unfaithful to the First Lady. Gaston B. Means, an amateur historian, wrote about his suspicions Harding had been poisoned. He also surmised Harding may have been killed to protect politicians because Harding probably would have been impeached if he hadn’t died. Speculation continues to this day.