Over the weekend Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was shot by Jared Lee Loughner, an assassination attempt that left Giffords in critical condition and 6 others dead. When political assassination attempts happen, many notice the similarities between different political assassins in our history. One you often hear is how assassins go by “three names”, as in first, middle, last. Slate.com has a great story explaining the “three name” phenomenon and why there isn’t that much too it.
Something I find much more distinctive is the youth of assassins and attempted assassins. Here’s a list:
- John Wilkes Booth, killed Lincoln at the age of 26
- Leon Czolgosz, killed William McKinley at the age of 28
- Lee Harvey Oswald, killed JFK at the age of 24
- Charles Guiteau, killed James A. Garfield at the age of 39
- John Hinkley Jr., attempted assassination of Reagan at the age of 25
- Giuseppe Zanagara, killed Chicago Mayor Anton Cermak and attempted to kill FDR at the age of 32
- John Schrank, attempted to kill Teddy Roosevelt at the age of 36
- Richard Lawrence, attempted to kill Andrew Jackson at the age of 34
- Collazo and Torresola, teamed up to try to kill Harry Truman, ages 36 & 25 respectively
- Squeaky Fromme, attempted to kill Gerald Ford at the age of 26
- Carl Weiss, assassinated Senator Huey Long at the age of 28
- Nathuram Godse, killed Ghandi at the age of 37
- Sirhan Sirhan, killed Robert Kennedy at the age of 24
- Arthur Bremer, attempted to kill Presidential Candidate George Wallace at the age of 21
- Mehmet Ali Agca, attempted to kill Pope John Paul II at the age of 23
- Mark David Chapman, killed John Lennon at the age of 25
- Dan White, killed Harvey Milk at the age of 32
All of these assassins or would be assassins were under the age of 40. James Earl Ray (Martin Luther King‘s assassin) was 40 on the nose but I didn’t list him because of recent dispute over his guilt. There were a few presidential assassination attempts by men over 40 but they were mostly guys like Samuel Byck (still only 44) who never really came close. The only close call by an assassin over 40 was the 45 year old Sara Jane Moore who attempted to shoot Gerald Ford. Strangely the only women on the list both tried to kill Gerald Ford.
Jared Lee Loughner is just 22. Assassination is a young man’s game, with often the youngest being the most successful. Strangely, of all those intended victims, Martin Luther King Jr. was the only one under the age of 40, making him the only person on my list assassinated by an “elder”.