On this date in 1975, a 45-year old radical named Sara Jane Moore attempted to assassinate U.S. President Gerald Ford, shooting at him once with a revolver from a crowd before being tackled. She was ultimately sentenced to life in prison, but the now 80 year old woman was released on parole on December 31, 2007, a year after President Ford died of natural causes.
I was a very young child when this happened, and only vaguely remembered that there had actually been two attempts made on Gerald Ford's life. I wonder if Sarah Jane Moore ever thought, while in prison, that she had thrown her life away. Not only was her attempt unsuccessful, but she didn't even secure much of a place in history. The most famous Presidential assassins are, surely, John Wilkes Booth and Lee Harvey Oswald. For almost everyone alive today, I would suspect that the next biggest such name would be John Hinkley, Jr. How must it feel to sit, rotting in prison, as only the second most famous attempted assassin of Gerald Ford, after someone called Squeaky Fromme.
But reading into her story a little this morning, I found a couple of notable aspects. For one, she was apparently an FBI informant at the time of her assassination attempt. She had also been picked up 'evaluated' by the Secret Service just months earlier, but was determined to be of 'no danger' to the President. And the day before she shot at President Ford, she had been arrested by police who had confiscated another revolver she was carrying. When, the next day, she turned out to be Ford's would-be assassin, I bet that was a very bad day at multiple law enforcement agencies. (And just imagine the conspiracy theories, had she succeeded.)
I also thought it was interesting that in 1979, she escaped from Federal prison in West Virginia. Imagine that: a Presidential assassin (and a 49 year old woman at the time, no less) managed to escape from Federal prison. Pretty amazing for the second-most-famous would be assassin of Gerald Ford. (Even if she was recaptured just hours later.)