Where was his bodyguard when Lincoln was shot?

“American History” – “Fun Facts Saturday”

Abraham Lincoln, our greatest president, was shot and killed by John Wilkes Booth while watching a performance at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C., on April 14, 1865.

But what many people don’t know is that President Lincoln had a bodyguard assigned to protect him at the time. 

The Pathetic Police Bodyguard

The bodyguard, John Parker, was a police officer for the Metropolitan Police of D.C.  He had been previously disciplined for dereliction of duty and conduct unbecoming an officer several times for being drunk on duty and using foul language.

Parker had been charged with sleeping on a streetcar when he was supposed to be walking his beat.  He explained that he had heard ducks quacking on the tram, and he had climbed aboard to investigate.  The charge was dismissed.

He had also been charged with frequenting a brothel. He claimed that the proprietress had sent for him to report crimes. The charges were dismissed.

Drinking in a Saloon During the Assassination

On the day of the assassination, Parker arrived three hours late for his shift. He was assigned to guard the entrance to the President’s box in the theater.

During the play, Parker left his post protecting the president and went to the Star Saloon next door to the theater. 

While the bodyguard was drinking, Booth entered the box and shot Lincoln.

The Incredible Aftermath – No Discipline

Parker was charged with neglect of duty, but the complaint was dismissed.

Aftermath – Assigned to Protect Mary Todd Lincoln

Unbelievably, Parker was assigned to White House security to guard Mary Todd Lincoln. Enraged, she yelled at him, “So you are on guard tonight, on guard in the White House after helping to murder the President!” Mrs. Lincoln announced she would always hold Parker responsible for the President’s death and angrily dismissed him from the room.

Finally Fired

Parker remained on the police force until 1868 when he was finally fired for sleeping on duty – three years too late.

P.S. A few “bad” cops can cause a lot of damage. Police discipline, or lack thereof, is still a controversial today.

(“John Frederick Parker,” Wikipedia; “Lincoln’s Missing Bodyguard,” Paul Martin, Smithsonian Magazine, Apr 7, 2010)


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