Discover the 4 U.S. Presidents who were Assassinated in History

The United States of America is a democracy, which means that the people have the power to change their government through elections. This system has been in effect for over two centuries and it has had its fair share of ups and downs. One event that most Americans learned about in history class was President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination. The death of an American president can be devastating, but it can also lead to positive changes in society. Despite being a rich democracy, the United States has had some of its Presidents assassinated. In this post, we are going to look at the U.S. presidents who were assassinated.

Here is a list of U.S. presidents who were assassinated:

  • Abraham Lincoln
  • James Garfield
  • William McKinley
  • John F. Kennedy

1. Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln was assassinated
Abraham Lincoln Statue

Date of Assassination: April 14, 1865

The date he died: April 15, 1865

Assassin: John Wilkes Booth

Abraham Lincoln was the 16th president of the United States. Lincoln was shot when he attended a play at Ford’s Theatre in Washington D.C. John Wilkes Booth is the man responsible for killing Lincoln and wounding several others with him that night. The event occurred during the closing days of America’s Civil War, which lasted from 1861 to 1865. At this time, Lincoln was already a popular figure and his assassination shocked the nation.

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John Wilkes Booth

There were four individuals involved in killing Lincoln that night: John Wilkes Booth, David Herold, George Atzerodt, and Michael O’Laughlen. Of these men, only John Wilkes Booth escaped conviction. John fled to Maryland where he was able to avoid law enforcement for ten days. However, he was located and shot by a soldier at Garrett’s farm in Virginia on the 26th of April, 1865.

The other three were found guilty of conspiracy against Lincoln: David Herold, George Atzerodt, and Michael O’Laughlen. The three were executed by hanging in July 1865.

Abraham Lincoln was the first U.S. President to be assassinated, but he wasn’t the last president in history to be killed this way.

Why was Abraham Lincoln Assassinated?

In his book “Inside the Mind of a Serial Killer”, Dr. Michael Stone explains that there are four reasons why someone would commit murder such as this: to achieve notoriety or fame because he or she wants to make a political statement but is angered by another person’s actions, because they believe that their victim deserved to die, or as a result of delusional thinking.

Taking these reasons into consideration, Stone says that it’s possible Abraham Lincoln was assassinated for one (or more) of the following four reasons: Booth wanted notoriety or fame himself and wished to be remembered forever by killing someone famous, he felt like this country was too divided and believed that if he killed Lincoln then a civil war might not break out, John Wilkes Booth believed it would be unjust for the South to lose the Civil War, so after killing Lincoln, he planned on kidnapping Andrew Johnson (the then Vice President) in order to spark another revolution or uprising against those who wanted peace with the North, he was involved in a conspiracy that went much deeper than just killing the president and wanted to take down other influential people as well.

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2. James Garfield

President James Garfield was also assassinated
James Garfield

Assassination Date: July 11, 1881

Place of Assassination: At a train station in Washington D.C

Date he died: September 19, 1881

James Garfield was the 20th president of the United States. He is among the U.S. presidents who were assassinated. After being shot, James Garfield died two months later on September 19, 1881, from an infection that had developed after being exposed to unsanitary medical practices while staying in office. It is believed this assassination attempt could have been avoided if doctors had treated the president’s wound appropriately when it first happened.

Why was James Garfield Assassinated?

Charles J. Guiteau, the man who assassinated James Garfield, was a lawyer and writer. He believed he should have been appointed as consul to France or England because of his previous work with these countries on commercial treaties. When it became clear that President Garfield would not appoint him in either position he became increasingly bitter towards the president. This pushed him to make a decision to assassinate the president.

What happened to the assailant?

Charles J. Guiteau was found guilty of assassinating the President and sentenced to death by hanging on June 30, 1882. He attempted suicide shortly before his execution but failed in killing himself due to being too weak from malnutrition. He only managed to break his nose with the bullet. When asked if he had anything to say before he was executed, Guiteau replied,

“I am now going to read a few lines from that beautiful poem of Byron, prefaced by two lines from the Bible. All men and women everywhere should hear, and again I say “Hear.” And when thy heart shall swell with pride and power, then perish thou and be as dust and clay. I am the equalizer, death for life I bring; equality begins in tombs.”

3. William McKinley

president William McKinley was also assassinated
William McKinley

Date of Assassination: September 6, 1901.

Date he died: September 14, 1901

William McKinley was the 25th President of the United States. He was shot by Leon Czolgosz at a Temple. McKinley is considered to be one of two Presidents who were fatally shot in office after Abraham Lincoln (the 16th president). Moreover, McKinley has been named among “The Forgotten Presidents” because he held the office for an average of six months before he was assassinated.

How was William McKinley Assassinated

McKinley was assassinated while visiting the Temple of Music in Buffalo, New York. On September 6, 1901, he was shaking hands with a line of people who were waiting to shake his hand and greet him at the World’s Fair reception for local politicians. As McKinley extended his left hand towards Czolgosz, the latter struck him twice in the stomach and then once more after he had fallen to his knees. Czolgosz charged towards a nearby china shop but was seized by other people who were at the fairgrounds before police arrived to arrest him.

McKinley initially appeared to be recovering but took a turn for the worse on September 13th. He died eight days after the shooting incident.

Czolgosz claimed that as an Anarchist, he had assassinated McKinley because he held him personally responsible for the poverty in which workers lived. He told police that he wanted to kill himself after assassinating the president but lacked the nerve to do it.

What happened to the Assailant?

The assailant was tried, found guilty, and executed by an electric chair on October 29, 1901. His last words were “I killed President McKinley because it was my duty.”

4. John F. Kennedy

President John F. Kennedy was assassinated
John F. Kennedy

Date of Assassination: November 22, 1963

Date he died: November 22, 1963

John F. Kennedy was the 35th president of the United States. He was fatally shot in Dallas while riding with his wife and Texas Governor John Connally together with his wife Nellie. The president’s motorcade was passing through the downtown streets on presidential handoff day from former Vice President Richard Nixon to then-Vice President Johnson. Kennedy died on the same day.

The assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, shot Kennedy from a nearby building with a mail-order rifle. He had purchased the rifle two months earlier. The assassin fled the scene undetected before being arrested in a movie theater by local police after killing Officer J.D Tippit and wounding another man.

What happened to the Assailant?

Lee Harvey Oswald was arrested for the murders of Kennedy and Tippit, but was never prosecuted. He also fired a shot at General Edwin Walker (a conservative commentator), one month earlier. Two days later on November 24, 1963, Oswald was fatally shot by Jack Ruby in full view of television cameras broadcasting live. The shooting was broadcasted live on numerous TV networks.

Why was John F. Kennedy Assassinated?

Oswald’s motive for assassinating Kennedy has long been the subject of speculation. Several conspiracy theories were proposed by some U.S citizens and official investigations into the assassination. The research was done in 1963 by local, state, federal, and military authorities. All agencies involved reached various conclusions according to each individual report after further investigations.


The U.S has four presidents who were assassinated. Lee Harvey Oswald assassinated President Kennedy, the only president that was fatally shot. The other three U.S presidents who were assassinated died of natural causes which might have been prevented. From this post, we learn that the lives of presidents should be protected at all times. There are people with different motives to kill the president. Some of those planning assassinations might be the competitors of the president. Therefore, this explains why, in contemporary societies, presidents are given utmost security day and night.