Today is a grim anniversary, marking 44 years since President John F. Kennedy was gunned down while in a motorcade to a speaking engagement in Dallas, TX. The event is singularly memorable in American history, the kind of gruesome reminder that terrible things can happen anywhere, to anyone.
Some people get the notion that this is old news, that the day when assassinating a President should be worried about is long gone. The actual record since that horrible day in 1963, however, is not promising:
April 14, 1972 – Arthur Bremer traveled to Ottawa (where he believed security would be looser) to attempt to assassinate President Richard Nixon. The security proved tighter than he expected, and he abandoned that attempt,. Choosing instead to try to kill Governor and Presidential candidate George Wallace.
February 22, 1974 – Samuel Byck hijacked a DC-9 at Baltimore/Washington International Airport, with the intention of crashing the plane into the White House to kill President Nixon. He shot three people, killing two of them, but committed suicide when police stormed the plane.
September 5, 1975 – Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme, a follower of serial murderer Charles Manson, attempted to shoot President Gerald Ford.
September 22, 1975 – Sarah Jane Moore, also a member of Manson’s “family”, shot at President Ford. Oliver Sipple, a bystander, grabbed her arm, which caused her to miss.
March 30, 1981 – John Hinkley, Jr. shot President Ronald Reagan in front of the Hilton Hotel in Washington, D.C.
October 29, 1994: Francisco Duran shot at the White House from the outside fence with a semi-automatic rifle. He fired at least 29 shots.
May 10, 2005 – Vladimir Arutyunian threw an RGD-5 hand grenade at the podium in Tbilisi, Georgia, where President George W. Bush is giving a speech. A malfunction kept the grenade from detonating.
It must also be noted that attempts, successful or not, were also made on Presidents Jackson, Lincoln, Garfield, McKinley, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, and Harry Truman.
There are also unconfirmed reports that attempts have been made on the life of every President since Kennedy, but that the Secret Service does not release information which might compromise its procedures or which might promote interest in an assassination attempt. One example is the reported attempt by a group of Middle Eastern men to “interview” President George W. Bush at the Colony Beach & Tennis Resort early on the morning of September 11th. They were turned away, but later were witnessed close to the motorocade.
Controversy continues to surround the JFK assassination, but it’s by no means old history.