Peoples and Nations

Edward Patterson: Repeat Threatener of Reagan

Edward Patterson: Repeat Threatener of Reagan

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


One of the most dangerous “repeat threateners” of President Ronald Reagan was Edward Patterson, a thirty-eight-year-old drifter who had a record of fifty arrests on charges of attempted robbery, drug offenses, and other crimes in New York, New Jersey, Chicago, and Florida. He had also been hospitalized repeatedly for treatment of mental illness.

Patterson had been arrested at least four times for threatening Presidents Nixon, Ford, and Carter, and had served a prison sentence for threatening President Reagan in 1981 and 1982. He was released July 2, 1986, from a federal prison in Ray Brook, New York, and instructed to go to a halfway house in Camden, New Jersey, but he never arrived.

Patterson was a ticking time bomb, but when he finally did blow it was not against a president but against Robert Burdick, a seventy-eight-year-old retired teacher. Burdick's body was found lying in his kitchen, stabbed at least ten times in the chest. Patterson had corresponded with Burdick from prison, given Burdick's address as his own when he was released, and lived in Burdick's apartment in Manhattan for three weeks before the murder.

Patterson was arrested in a Baltimore bus station after he told a television news editor about the murder. He said he killed Burdick because the retired teacher had abused children.