Reagan Shot 30 Years Ago

While we’re managing our reporting of the Jerry Amante recall effort, we nearly forgot to mention that it’s been 30 years since President Ronald Reagan was shot by John Hinckley.  In constrast to the Reagan shooting, no one brought up Hinckley’s party affiliation or political leanings as Sarah Palin did with the Gabby Giffords case.

So we ask you readers — where were you 30 years ago?

I was in college and I had voted for Reagan (I did).  But had just received a letter from the federal government telling me my federal student aid had been cut in half.  Two part time jobs and a dual major meant college was a sleepless experience for me, but I got through it.

My friends still have buttons from before the shooting that read “Reagan in ’80, Bush in ’81” referencing the old zero year elected presidents die in office theory that ended with Ronald Reagan and didn’t resume with George W. Bush.  I still remember Frank Reynolds from ABC News yelling “Oh my God he’s been shot?”

So what’s your story, memory of the Reagan shooting?

Here’s some trivia on the zero year presidential curse:

1840: WILLIAM HENRY HARRISON was 68 years old when he delivered his inaugural address on March 3, 1841. The speech was a stemwinder, lasting an hour and 40 minutes in frigid weather, with Harrison refusing to wear a coat or hat. The new president came down with a cold which rapidly developed into pneumonia. Harrison was bedridden for a month and finally died on April 4.

1860: ABRAHAM LINCOLN was just beginning his second term when he was shot by John Wilkes Booth at Ford’s Theater in Washington, D.C. on the evening of April 14, 1865. Lincoln survived the night but died the next morning at a house across the street from the theater. Lincoln’s death came only six days after the surrender of Robert E. Lee at Appomattox and the end of the Civil War.

1880: JAMES GARFIELD was shot by assassin Charles Guiteau on July 2, 1881 in a Washington railway station. The shots were not immediately fatal; Garfield lived for two months before dying from complications on September 19th.

1900: WILLIAM McKINLEY was elected in 1896 and re-elected in 1900. He was attending the Pan American Exposition in Buffalo, New York when he was shot by unemployed millworker Leon Czolgosz on September 6, 1901. He died a week later as a result of gangrene caused by the bullet wounds. (McKinley was replaced by Theodore Roosevelt, who a decade later was shot but not killed while trying to regain the presidency.)

1920: WARREN HARDING made a cross-country rail tour in 1923, a major undertaking for that time. Harding became the first president to visit Alaska, but while returning south to California he came down with intestinal cramps and then pneumonia. While convalescing from these illnesses Harding suffered an apparent stroke and died on August 2 in San Francisco.

1940: FRANKLIN ROOSEVELT, first elected in 1932, was beginning an unprecedented fourth term when he died in April of 1945. Worn down by years of exertion leading the country during the Great Depression and World War II, FDR suffered a cerbral hemorrhage while on a working vacation in Warm Springs, Georgia. His last words have become well known: “I have a terrific headache.”

1960: JOHN F. KENNEDY‘s death has perhaps replaced Lincoln’s as the most famous presidential assassination. Kennedy was shot by Lee Harvey Oswald during a motorcade through Dallas, Texas on November 22, 1963. Two days later Oswald was himself shot and killed by Jack Ruby.

1980: RONALD REAGAN served two full terms, 1981-1989. He survived an assassination attempt by John Hinckley on 30 March 1981.

2000: GEORGE W. BUSH also served two full terms, from 2001-2009, thereby putting the final kibosh on Tecumseh’s Curse. He narrowly escaped an assassination attempt by a pretzel on 14 January 2002, but his administration was otherwise healthfully uneventful.


  1. no one brought up Hinckley’s party affiliation or political leanings

    Whaaa??? No, the story here is that thirty years ago not a single media outlet or conservative leader jumped into the fray and blamed Reagan’s shooting on the heightened rhetoric of the left for fomenting political violence.

    Plain was RESPONDING to the non-stop claims that she was responsible for the shooting because she had used military symbolism to highlight ‘battle ground’ congressional seats. You seem so desperate to make every issue an opportunity for cheap lame political dig.

  2. Jim — I know you’re a huge Sarah Palin fan, but she had targets on her website and uses langauge like “reload.” Free speech should be responsible speech. Cheap political digs? Nah, Republicans would never do that to Democrats would they?

    Perhaps I’m nostalgic for the days our respective parties could actually compromise on things. Reagan could and did. If he were a candidate today, your party would call him a RINO and throw him under the bus.

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