On March 30, 1981, President Ronald Reagan was just seventy days into his first term of office when John Hinckley Jr. opened fire outside the Washington Hilton Hotel, wounding the president, press secretary James Brady, a Secret Service agent, and a D.C. police officer. For years, few people knew the truth about how close the president came to dying, and no one has ever written a detailed narrative of that harrowing day. Now, drawing on exclusive new interviews and never-before-seen documents, photos, and videos, Del Quentin Wilber tells the electrifying story of a moment when the nation faced a terrifying crisis that it had experienced less than twenty years before, the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
With cinematic clarity, we see Secret Service agent Jerry Parr, whose fast reflexes saved the president’s life; the brilliant surgeons who operated on Reagan as he was losing half his blood; and the small group of White House officials frantically trying to determine whether the country was under attack. Most especially, we encounter the man code-named “Rawhide,” a leader of uncommon grace who inspired affection and awe in everyone who worked with him. Read more…
President Reagan discusses the shooting with Helen Thomas of UPI and Jim Gerstenzang of the AP
Listen to the Ronald Reagan’s
Speech to the AFL-CIO
President Ronald Reagan
After a successful career in Hollywood, Ronald Reagan viewed his presidency as the best role of his life. But the most dramatic scene of his eight-year term was completely unscripted: just sixty-nine days after his inauguration, he was shot and almost killed. Thanks to Secret Service agents and skilled doctors—as well as his own relentless optimism and tough physique—the seventy-year-old man code-named “Rawhide” survived. Ever the entertainer, he even managed a few memorable hospital-bed quips.
Agent Jerry Parr
At age nine, Jerry Parr watched a movie called The Code of the Secret Service, starring Ronald Reagan as a dashing federal agent. From that day on, Parr dreamed of joining the Secret Service, and he did so in 1962. On March 30, 1981, he was head of the president’s security detail and at Reagan’s side when a deranged gunman opened fire outside the Washington Hilton hotel. Parr’s quick actions saved Ronald Reagan’s life.
Del Quentin Wilber interviews agent Jerry Parr:
|Watch an interview with agent Jerry Parr: