Killing the President

Assassinations, Attempts, and Rumored Attempts on U.S. Commanders-in-Chief

by Willard M. Oliver and Nancy E. Marion


Abraham Lincoln. Andrew Jackson. Theodore Roosevelt. John F. Kennedy. Some of the greatest and most influential American presidents suddenly found themselves in the cross hairs of an assassin's gun. Throughout U.S. history, the unpredictable minds of the criminals who wanted them dead conspired with pure luck to result in an unfavorable—or fortuitous—outcome.

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Cover image for Killing the President

August 2010


Pages 235
Volumes 1
Size 6 1/8x9 1/4
Topics American History/Politics

This book offers an analysis of every American presidential assassination and various attempted assassinations, examining the events surrounding each event and the people involved.

The assassinations and attempted assassinations of American presidents were pivotal events that reverberated throughout the nation, even in cases where the murder was botched. The individuals behind each plot are often fascinating studies in obsession and distorted perception of reality—like President James Garfield's assassin, who spent an extra dollar on the gun he chose for the act simply because it would look better in a museum display after the event.

For the first time under one cover, this text offers a concise study of every presidential assassination, attempt, and rumor. Each chapter focuses on a single American assassination, providing an analysis of the president, the assassin, and the events that shaped their arrival at that place in time. The chapter then describes the assassination or attempt itself and the long-term impacts of the crime. Accounts of the more contemporary incidents involving Presidents John F. Kennedy, Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush especially demonstrate the evolution of the monumental task of protecting the U.S. president in a free and open society.


  • Includes 19 historic photographs regarding assassinations of American presidents
  • A bibliography of sources facilitates further research on specific subject matter


  • A concise, easy-to-read book, suitable for high school or college-level reports
  • Provides a full and colorful account of not only the assassinations themselves, but also the events leading up to the assassination or attempt and the aftereffects
  • Covers every assassination, attempted assassination, and rumored assassination on U.S. presidents throughout American history
  • Includes a thorough consideration of two rumored but unproven assassinations
Author Info

Willard M. Oliver is professor of criminal justice in the College of Criminal Justice at Sam Houston State University, Huntsville, TX. His research interests focus on federal crime control policy, particularly regarding the Office of the President. His published works include The Law & Order Presidency and The Public Policy of Crime and Criminal Justice.

Nancy Marion is professor of political science and fellow at the Bliss Institute of Applied Politics at the University of Akron, Akron, OH. Marion's major area of expertise is the interplay of politics and criminal justice policy, and has many publications to her credit in this field. She is coauthor of The Public Policy of Crime and Criminal Justice.

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