33 Years Ago John Hinckley Tried To Kill President Ronald Reagan To Prove His Love To Jodie Foster


EDITOR’S NOTE: This post originally ran on March 30th, 2011

UPDATE: Former White House Press Secretary James Brady, who was famously shot during the attempt on then-President Ronald Reagan’s life in 1981, has died. He was 73. “Jim touched the lives of so many and has been a wonderful husband, father, friend and role model,” his family said in a statement. “We are enormously proud of Jim’s remarkable accomplishments – before he was shot on the fateful day in 1981 while serving at the side of President Ronald Reagan and in the days, months and years that followed. Jim Brady’s zest for life was apparent to all who knew him, and despite his injuries and the pain he endured every day, he used his humor, wit and charm to bring smiles to others and make the world a better place.” Brady was confined to a wheelchair after being shot and went on to become a leading voice for gun control. In 1993, President Bill Clinton signed the Brady Handgun Violence Protection Act into law. MORE

MICHAEL REAGAN: Thirty-three years ago, on March 30, 1981, my father, Ronald Reagan, went to the Washington Hilton to address the AFL-CIO. After the speech, he left the Hilton by the VIP exit, surrounded by aides and Secret Service agents. A small crowd lined the sidewalk—including one disturbed young man, John W. Hinckley, Jr. As my father waved, Hinckley pulled a revolver and fired six shots in 1.7 seconds. MORE

RELATED: Every modern president has been given a code name by the Secret Service. Some code names have been apt; some have not. John F. Kennedy was Lancer, a clear effort to evoke Camelot, the legend often associated with Kennedy. Reagan’s predecessor, Jimmy Carter, was Deacon, an appropriate code name for a former Sunday school teacher and devout Christian. But neither Timberwolf (George H. W. Bush) nor Eagle (Bill Clinton) had any particular resonance. Reagan’s code name fit him well. It was first given to him in 1976, when the former California governor was assigned Secret Service protection during his unsuccessful attempt to win the Republican nomination. Because the military—which manages communications for the White House—is responsible for drawing up a list of potential code names, a U.S. Army master sergeant was charged with the task of reviewing an inventory of available military call signs that could be used for Reagan. He thought Rawhide was suitable because the former actor had appeared in several westerns and was known to be a rancher. MORE

BBC: Over the Secret Service radio, the word went out: “Rawhide is OK, Rawhide is OK.” And the decision was made to take the president back to the White House – the safest place in Washington. But Mr Parr, with Reagan in the back of the car, started having doubts. At the city’s Dupont Circle he asked the president how he was feeling. “He said he was doing OK, ‘but I think I’ve cut the inside of my mouth’. And he started spitting up this bright red blood, real frothy, and I took one look at it and I looked at his mouth and I saw that it was ashen grey, little bit of blue around the lips. “And I just took a quick decision, I’m taking you to the hospital, and he said ‘OK’.” That act probably saved the president’s life. Reagan managed to walk unaided from the car into George Washington University Hospital but then collapsed. MORE

MICHAEL REAGAN: The medical team, led by Dr. Joseph Giordano, became intensely concerned as Dad’s blood pressure dropped and he seemed to be going into shock. They took him into the operating room and prepped him for surgery. At one point, Dad pulled his oxygen mask away and said, “I hope you’re all Republicans.” The doctors and nurses laughed and the tension in the room was broken. Dr. Giordano—a registered Democrat—said, “Today, Mr. President, we’re all Republicans.” MORE

TIME: It’s been 30 years since John W. Hinckley Jr. stood outside the Washington Hilton Hotel on a gray, misty day and tried to kill the President of the United States with a .22 caliber that he’d loaded with six Devastator bullets, designed to explode on impact. He is 55 now, younger than the four people he shot that day. One of his victims, the main target — my father — died more than six years ago. Three others remain. Former White House press secretary James Brady is 70. The most gravely wounded and the first one shot, he sustained a massive brain injury that left him paralyzed on one side and forever impaired. Timothy McCarthy, now 62, was a Secret Service agent trained to take a bullet for the person he was protecting. That’s what he did. He dived across my father and was shot in the abdomen. Thomas Delahanty is 76. On March 30, 1981, he was a District of Columbia police officer. After being struck in the back by one of Hinckley’s bullets, he was left with permanent nerve damage and was forced to retire. MORE


Dear Jodie:

There is definitely a possibility that I will be killed in my attempt to get Reagan. It is for this very reason that I am writing you this letter now.As you well know by now I love you very much. Over the past seven months I’ve left you dozens of poems, letters and love messages in the faint hope that you could develop an interest in me. Although we talked on the phone a couple of times I never had the nerve to simply approach you and introduce myself. Besides my shyness, I honestly did not wish to bother you with my constant presence. I know the many messages left at your door and in your mailbox Taxi_Driver_Jodie_Foster_2.jpgwere a nuisance, but I felt that it was the most painless way for me to express my love for you.I feel very good about the fact that you at least know my name and how I feel about you. And by hanging around your dormitory, I’ve come to realize that I’m the topic of more than a little conversation, however full of ridicule it may be. At least you know that I’ll always love you. Jodie, I would abandon the idea of getting Reagan in a second if I could only win your heart and live out the rest of my life with you, whether it be in total obscurity or whatever.I will admit to you that the reason I’m going ahead with this attempt now is because I cannot wait any longer to impress you. I’ve got to do something now to make you understand, in no uncertain terms, that I’m doing all of this for your sake! By sacrificing my freedom and possibly my life, I hope to change your mind about me. This letter is being written only an hour before I leave for the Hilton Hotel. Jodie, I’m asking you to please look into your heart and at least give the chance, with this historical deed, to gain your love and respect.

NATIONAL JOURNAL: The U.S. Secret Service has released its audio recording from the moments before John Hinckley Jr. fired his revolver at the president to the frantic arrival of first lady Nancy Reagan at George Washington University Medical Center, where her husband was undergoing emergency surgery. The 10-minute recording, from March 30, 1981, of the Secret Service’s “OSCAR” channel, which linked the Presidential Protective Division agents around Reagan with the agency’s “Horsepower” command post at the White House, begins with an agent announcing Reagan’s exit from the side door of the Washington Hilton hotel. MORE

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