Sunday, March 30, 2014

Assassination Attempt on Reagan


Washington, D.C. (JFK+50) Thirty three years ago today, March 30, 1981, Ronald Wilson Reagan was shot as he left a speaking engagement at the Hilton Hotel here in the Nation's Capital.

The President and three others were shot by John Hinckley, Jr.* who was immediately taken into custody.  

The assassination attempt, which came just 69 days into Mr. Reagan's first term, took place at 2:27 p.m. Eastern time as the president, accompanied by aides and Secret Service agents, exited the hotel.

Reagan Waves Just Before Shooting
Reagan Library Photo

Six shots were fired from a Rohm RG-14 .22 caliber pistol.

Special Agent Jerry Parr of the United States Secret Service pushed Reagan into the back of the Presidential car in an attempt to get him out of the line of fire while Special Agent Timothy McCarthy, placing his body in front of the President, took a bullet in the abdomen.

Parr Pushes Reagan Into Limo

The other victims included James Brady, Reagan's Press Secretary and Special Agent Thomas Delahanty.

Aftermath of Shooting
Washington Hilton Hotel
March 30, 1981

President Reagan was taken to nearby George Washington University Hospital.

After getting out of his car, the President's legs became wobbly and he was taken into the hospital where he was attended by a surgical team headed by Dr. Joseph Giordano.

Mr. Reagan, who had been given 4.5 units of blood, was wheeled into surgery at 3:24 p.m.

Although groggy, President Reagan was able to say to the doctors...

 "I hope you are all Republicans".

Dr. Giordano, a self-described "old fashioned liberal Democrat" replied...

"Today, Mr. President, we are all Republicans."

George Washington University Marker
Washington, D.C.
Photo by John White (2011)

Reagan, who would become known as "The Great Communicator," was also able to paraphrase movie comedian W.C. Fields'...

"All in all, I'd rather be in Philadelphia."

During a very tense surgery, doctors located a bullet in Mr. Reagan's lung just an inch from his heart. 

Thanks to the quick action by the Secret Service and the talent and training of the medical staff at George Washington University, President Reagan recovered.

Mrs. Reagan with the President 

In his book "Reagan's America: Innocents at Home," Garry Wills writes...

"The grace and humor Reagan showed after the attempt to assassinate him...added a mythical quality to his leadership, revealing his character in a way that made it almost impossible to dislike him."

Ronald Reagan was the 1st president to survive being shot in an assassination attempt. 

Mr. Reagan was hit by the sixth bullet which ricocheted off the side of the armored vehicle and entered under the left arm.

The bullet grazed a rib and lodged in a lung.

President Reagan was able to return to the Oval Office on April 25, 1981, but James Brady, who suffered a serious head injury, was left permanently disabled. 

Agent Delahanty was forced to retire due to his wound.

John Hinckley was found not guilty by reason of insanity on June 1, 1992.

The motivation for the crime was determined to be Hinkley's fanatical obsession with actress Jodie Foster.

John Hinckley, Jr. Mugshot
March 30, 1981
FBI Photo

*John Warnock Hinckley, Jr. was born on May 29, 1955 in Ardmore, Oklahoma.  He grew up in Dallas, Texas and attended Texas Tech University.  

Hinckley developed an obsession with actress Jodie Foster after seeing her 1976 film Taxi Driver.  This led to an effort to impress her.

After collecting information about the JFK assassination, he directed his evil attentions to President Reagan.


"Ronald Reagan:  Grace Under the Scalpel, the Great Communicator Strikes Again," by David Emery,