Peoples and Nations

Ronald Gene Barbour: Clinton's Would-Be Assassin

Ronald Gene Barbour: Clinton's Would-Be Assassin

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


President Clinton's stubborn insistence on jogging in public also nearly got him assassinated, and it would likely have happened, Dan Emmett said, “were it not for an overseas trip.” Clinton's would-be assassin was Ronald Gene Barbour, a forty-five-year-old veteran and unemployed limousine driver who lived in Orlando, Florida, and suffered from severe depression. Barbour hated Democratic politicians and wanted to kill Clinton to embarrass the administration. Barbour didn't much like Hillary either, once telling a neighbor, “I have this vision of stomping that woman Hillary Clinton to death with hobnail boots.” He then told her he was the man who would be known as Clinton's assassin.

On January 11, 1994, before he put his plans to kill Clinton into effect, Ronald Gene Barbour attempted suicide at his apartment in Florida. After the attempt failed, he put his gun and clothes in his car and drove toward West Virginia, where he intended to try again. But Barbour missed his exit and decided instead to drive to Washington, D.C., to kill Clinton. He also wanted to get himself killed, or “cop-shot” as police officers call it.

In Washington, Barbour roamed the National Mall every day for a week with his .45 handgun, intending to shoot Clinton while the president was jogging. “I never got stopped by the police,” Barbour said. “I am a very orderly person. I just played Joe Tourist.” He also walked around the White House several times. But then Barbour learned that the president was in Russia, so he headed back to Florida and sold his gun.

On January 29, 1994, Barbour invited a neighbor into his apartment and told him about his aborted plans to assassinate the president. Intrigued, the neighbor returned with his fiancée and a tape recorder. Barbour told them that he planned to kill Clinton then travel to Virginia to commit suicide at St. Mary's Hospital, his birthplace. Over the next few days, Barbour related his story to several other people. At the urging of some of his neighbors, Barbour visited the Veterans Affairs Medical Center on February 3, 1994, for psychiatric treatment.

The Secret Service soon learned about Ronald Gene Barbour's confession and began an investigation. Agents found Barbour's suicide note and tracked him to the medical center. While Secret Service special agents met with Daniel Doherty, head of the hospital administration, they saw Barbour in the lobby awaiting treatment. After a doctor's evaluation, Barbour was involuntarily committed to a private mental health facility. He was also eventually charged with threatening to kill the president. The president's head of detail told Clinton about Barbour's plot and warned him that his jogging habits had left him extremely vulnerable.

On May 27, 1994, Barbour was found guilty by an Orlando jury and sentenced to five years in prison and three years' probation on his release.