The assassination of American presidents

This Bank Holiday weekend, as well as viewing the movie “X-Men: The Days Of Future Past” [my review here] – which suggested that President Kennedy was shot because he was a mutant (!) – I attended a one-day course at London’s City Lit on the assassination of American presidents. It was led by Dr Dale Mineshima-Lowe, a clear speaker who made good use of video clips and gave us excellent handout material.

Four US presidents have been assassinated:

  • Abraham Lincoln – On 14 April 1865, he was shot by the actor John Wilkes Booth and died the next day. More information here.
  • James Garfield – On 2 July 1881, he was shot by Charles Guiteau and lingered until his death two and half months later. More information here.
  • William McKinley – On 6 September 1901, he was shot by Leon Czolgosz and died eight days later. More information here.
  • John F Kennedy – On 22 November 1963, he was shot by Lee Harvey Oswald and died immediately. More information here.

We discussed the conspiracy theories around each of these assassinations, but especially that of Kennedy. Apparently the latest theory around JFK’s death is that the fatal bullet was fired accidentally by a member of the secret service.

We were told about Tecumseh’s Curse – otherwise known as the ‘Zero Year’ Curse. Tucumseh was the Native American chief of the Shawnee tribe at the time of the Battle of Tippecanoe on 7 November 1811. The curse stated that the incumbent president William Harrison would die and after him, every great chief chosen every 20 years would also die. More information here.

We also discussed eight near misses of attempts to kill a president:

  • Andrew Jackson on 30 January 1835
  • Theodore Roosevelt on 14 October 1912
  • Franklin D Roosevelt on 15 February 1933
  • Harry S Truman on 1 November 1950
  • Gerald Ford on both 5 & 22 September 1975
  • Ronald Reagan on 30 March 1981
  • Bill Clinton on 25 November 1996
  • George W Bush on 10 May 2005


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