Four U.S. Presidents who were Assassinated in Office

Four presidents have been assassinated during their terms, Abraham Lincoln, James A. Garfield, William McKinley, and John F. Kennedy, while there were over 30 attempts to kill presidents in and out of office. Both Theodore Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan were injured during assassination attempts.

Abraham Lincoln

Lincoln's assassination. Source:

Lincoln’s assassination. Source:

On April 14, 1885, President Abraham Lincoln was at the Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C. with Mary Todd Lincoln, his wife, and two others. At about 10:14 p.m., he was shot in the back of his head by John Wilkes Booth in the middle of the the play Our American Cousin. Mary Lincoln was holding his hand when it happened. Major Henry Rathbone saw Booth as he was trying to escape and attempted to stop him, but Rathbone was stabbed in the chest and his arm was slashed down to the bone. Lincoln’s wound was soon declared fatal. He was carried out of the theatre and across the street to the Peterson House. For nine hours, he remained in a coma then the following morning, he died at 7:22 a.m.

On April 26, 1865, Booth had been tracked down by Union soldiers and shot by Sergeant Boston Corbett. The wound, like lincoln’s was fatal, and he died.

George Atzerodt had been in on Booth’s plan and was about to assassinate Vice President Andrew Johnson, but backed out due to fear. Lewis Powell was assigned to killing Secretary of State William H. Seward and did not succeed, but did injure him.

James A. Garfield

Garfield's assassination. Source:

Garfield’s assassination. Source:

President James A. Garfield had only bene in office for four months when on July 2, 1881 at 9:30 a.m. in Washington D.C. when he was shot once in the right arm and once in the back by Charles J. Guiteau. Garfield had been arriving at the Baltimore and Potomac Railroad Station when it happened. The wounds caused bad infections that led to his death eleven weeks later on September 19, 1881 at 10:35 p.m.

Right after shooting Garfield, Guiteau was arrested. The trial was highly publicised and lasted from November 14, 1881 until January 25, 1882 when he found guilty. Guiteau was sentenced to death and on June 30, 1882, executed by hanging in D.C. During his trial, they believed that he suffered from bipolar disorder or effects on the brain from syphilis.

William McKinley

Assassination of William McKinley. Source:

Assassination of William McKinley. Source:

On September 6, 1901, President William McKinley was shot in Buffalo, New York at the Temple of Music. Self proclaimed anarchist Leon Czolgosz had shot him twice in the abdomen. While the first bullet ricocheted off a button or medal on the president’s jacket, the other hit him right in the stomach. Seven days later, William McKinley died on September 14, 1901 at 2:15 a.m.

Czolgosz was captured by members of the crowd that had been surrounding the president. Along with the police, the 4th Brigade and the National Guard Signal Corps beat him do bad, some thoughts it was unlikely he would survive until his trial. His trial took two days and was very rushed. In the end, Czolgosz was sentenced to death and died on October 29, 1901 by the electric chair.

It was after McKinley’s assassination that Congress made sure the Secret Service would permanently protect the president.

John F. Kennedy

President Kennedy and his wife Jackie shortly before he was shot. Source:

President Kennedy and his wife Jackie shortly before he was shot. Source:

President John F. Kennedy was infamously shot on November 22, 1963 at 12:30 p.m. on a trip to Dallas, Texas. He was shot while riding beside his wife, First Lady Jacqueline “Jackie” Kennedy, twice through the neck and his hide by a sniper. They were riding down Dealey Plaza. After thirty minutes, he was pronounced dead at the Parkland Memorial Hospital. It had taken him thirty minutes to die, but immediately after he was shot, he had been brain dead. The governor of Texas, John Connally, was sitting in front of Kennedy and was wounded, but survived.

Texas School Book Depository employee Lee Harvey Oswald was arrested when his rifle was found at his work with shell casings. Initially, he was arrested for killing J. D. Tippit, a police officer from Dallas. Oswald was then shot on November 24, 1963 by a nightclub owner, Jack Ruby. The shot was fateful and he died at 1:07 a.m. on November 25. Ruby was tried and convicted for murder, dying in prison in 1967.

An investigation went on for ten months and finally, they came to the conclusion that Kennedy had been assassinated by Oswald, who acted alone. To this day, many believe that Oswald was not the true killer and could have been part of a cover up. There are many conspiracy theories relating to his assassination.