Peoples and Nations

President Harry Truman Assassination Attempts

President Harry Truman Assassination Attempts

The following article on Harry Truman assassination attempts is an excerpt from Mel Ayton's Hunting the President: Threats, Plots, and Assassination Attempts-From FDR to Obama.


President Truman continued to be the target of would-be assassins during his presidency and after he left office. Truman assassination attempts only seemed to accelerate over the years.

In 1957, Leroy Shadrick, a Korean War veteran whose brother was purportedly the first U.S. soldier to die in the conflict, stalked the president he held responsible for his brother's death. In March 1955, Shadrick, who had a history of mental illness, visited Truman's hometown of Independence, to “case it” and to learn about the former president's daily routine. Coincidentally, he was arrested by the FBI for income tax fraud, convicted, and served eighteen months in a federal prison in West Virginia. He was released in December 1956 and continued to plot Truman's assassination. He bought a shotgun, sawed off the barrel, and rigged a crude holster to carry the weapon in his coat. To finance his plot, he attempted to rob the Albemarle, North Carolina, Home Builders Association. He hoped to steal enough money to hide out until July 1957, the seventh anniversary of his brother's death, when he would complete his “mission.” Shadrick's scheme was foiled, however, when a woman teller screamed during his hold-up attempt. Shadrick panicked, dropped his gun, and fled. An off-duty fireman picked up the gun and apprehended Shadrick, holding him until police arrived.

Shadrick pleaded guilty to the attempted robbery, and a federal judge recommended he be sent to an institution for treatment for schizophrenia and paranoia. In May 1958, he escaped from the institution with four other inmates by sawing through a window screen. He was soon recaptured and sent to a hospital for the criminally insane.

More Truman assassination attempts came in later years. The Trumans were without Secret Service protection the moment Dwight D. Eisenhower was inaugurated president on January 20, 1953. But on December 16, 1965, President Lyndon Johnson signed Public Law 89-186, which extended lifetime Secret Service protection to former presidents, their widows, and their minor children. President Truman accepted the protection in principle, but he had to be coaxed by President Johnson into accepting agents at the Truman Library, where he kept an office.

The Truman assassination attempts only seemed to get odder over time. In July 1966, after an incident with a former mental patient, Truman requested temporary Secret Service protection at his home. In May 1967, Truman and his wife were afforded twenty-four-hour protection, though the agents never stayed overnight inside the Truman home.