In 1865, John Wilkes Booth fatally shot President Abraham Lincoln after a plan to kidnap the president – in an effort to win the release of Confederate soldiers captured by Union forces in the Civil War – failed to materialize.
“This country was formed for the white not for the black man,” Wilkes once wrote in a letter.
Booth sneaked into Lincoln’s private box at the Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C., shot the president in the head, and leapt to the stage, where a production of Our American Cousin
was underway. Because of the laughter generated by the play and ensuing commotion, it is not clear if Booth actually said, “Sic semper tyrannis (Thus always to tyrants).”
After the Kennedys and King, a man named Arthur Bremer was inspired to attempt assassination, writing in his diary that he wanted ‘to do SOMETHING BOLD AND DRAMATIC, FORCEFUL & DYNAMIC, A STATEMENT of my manhood for the world to see.’
Taking a cue from Booth, he even said he wanted to say something ‘cute’ after shooting either President Richard Nixon or Alabama Governor and presidential candidate George Wallace. Bremer wanted to say, “A penny for you thoughts,” after shooting Wallace, who he considered a much easier target than the president.
Bremer shot Wallace five times in Maryland, effectively crippling the governor, but the assassination attempt was not successful. Bremer was quickly subdued and sentenced to 53 years in prison.
In 1972, a Michigan native named Paul Schrader was drinking heavily and living out of his car before being hospitalized for a gastric ulcer. In the hospital, Schrader read the story of Arthur Bremer and set about writing the screenplay for the film that would become “Taxi Driver,” which is said to have precisely depicted masculinity in the post-Vietnam United States.
In the 1976 film, 13-year-old Jodie Foster played the role of a prostitute named Iris.
One hundred and 15 years after Booth shot Lincoln, a troubled upper-class young man named John Hinckley read in People
magazine that Jodie Foster had enrolled at Yale University in New Haven, Conn. So impressed with Foster’s work in “Taxi Driver,” Hinckley went to Connecticut and took a course at Yale to be near the young actress.
A gun enthusiast who owned more than 300 firearms, Hinckley spoke of his desire to win Foster’s affection through ‘historic deed.’ In a letter written to Foster shortly before he shot President Reagan, Hinckley stated:
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.
On March 30, 1981, Hinckley stepped forward from a crowd of television reporters and fired six shots from a Rohm R6-14 revolver. The bullets from Hinckley’s gun struck Reagan in the left chest, Press Secretary James Brady in the left temple, Officer Thomas Delahanty in the neck, and Security Agent Timothy McCarthy in the stomach.
Hinckley was found not guilty of the shootings by reason of insanity.