Teddy Roosevelt Survives Shooting
It was one of American history's bravest and most courageous acts. It involved an assassination attempt, a stubborn presidential candidate, and his long-winded speech.
It happened on October 14, 1912. The presidential candidate was none other than former President Theodore Roosevelt, who was running again because of disagreements with his party's nominee, incumbent William Howard Taft.
Roosevelt, it will be remembered, became president when President William McKinley was assassinated on Septebmer 6, 1901. His vice-president, Theodore Roosevelt, became president and served out McKinley's term, then got himself re-elected, serving until the election of 1908.
That year, however, Roosevelt didn't run again. Instead, the Republican candidate was William Howard Taft, who won. Once Taft was in office, however, he didn't consult very much with Roosevelt and pursued policies that the former president didn't exactly like. So in 1912, when Taft ran for re-election, Roosevelt opposed him in the Republican Party. Taft was elected the party candidate, and Roosevelt bolted the party to create his own. This was beginning of the Bull Moose Party, for which Roosevelt was the only candidate.
Just weeks before the election, who would become president wasn't exactly known. Many people thought that Taft would win re-election. Many people preferred the Democratic Party candidate, Woodrow Wilson. The wildcard was Teddy Roosevelt himself, who still commanded enormous respect and support throughout the country.
Roosevelt was in Milwaukee, Wisc., preparing to give a campaign speech on October 14, 1912, just weeks before the election. He had arrived at a hotel in preparation for a dinner meeting before giving his speech that evening at one of the city's large auditoriums. As Roosevelt stood up on the running board of a car to greet a crowd that gathered to greet him, a man with a gun fired one shot at Roosevelt's heart.
Fortunately for the ex-president, he had the transcript of his speech in the pocket that covered his heart. The speech was so long and was written on so many pages that it provided a sort of shield, blunting the force of the bullet that was aimed at killing him.
Roosevelt was certainly aware of the bullet entering his body, which it did just a bit. He was rushed to a nearby hospital, where the doctors who examined him said the wound wasn't at all fatal. Stubborn as ever, Roosevelt announced that he intended to deliver his speech as scheduled.
The would-be assassin, meanwhile, was wrestled to the ground and taken away on the spot, his plot foiled. Whether he was immediately aware of what happened later that evening isn't known.
What did happen, of course, is that Teddy Roosevelt gave his speech as scheduled, with the bullet lodged partly in his body and blood dripping down his clothes. He told the audience about the shooting and held up his speech so they could see what had saved his life. "You see," he roared. "It takes more than that to kill a Bull Moose." (That was a nickname he had for himself, reinforcing his image as a "tough guy."
Roosevelt delivered a good part of his speech that night, but he didn't finish. The loss of blood eventually got the better of him, and he was rushed to the hospital, where doctors removed the bullet and kept him for observation.
(This episode wasn't enough to deliver Roosevelt back to the White House, though. Roosevelt and Taft split the Republican party vote enough that Wilson squeaked his way into the White House.)