Reagan assassination attempt topic at speech

Staff Writer
Woodford Times

The assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan will be the topic of a presentation at Eureka College Wednesday.

Journalist and author Del Quentin Wilber will discuss his book “Rawhide Down: The Near Assassination of Ronald Reagan” at 7 p.m. in the Cerf Center. Admission is $10.  A book-signing will follow. The book will be available to purchase in the Eureka College Bookstore.

“Rawhide Down” was published by Henry Holt and Co. last year, which marked the 30th anniversary of the assassination attempt that occurred on March 30, 1981. The book was a New York Times Best Seller and a Washington Post Notable Nonfiction Book for 2011. The book’s title comes from the Secret Service’s code name for Reagan.

Wilber, a reporter for the Washington Post, said he wrote “Rawhide Down” after attending a hearing for John Hinckley Jr. and being handed the would-be assassin’s gun by an FBI agent. Wilber’s research for the book included exclusive interviews and Secret Service and FBI documents, photos and videos that had never before been seen by the public.

“Del Wilber will give us the incredible minute-by-minute account about the only president to survive a gunshot while in office,” said John Morris director of the Ronald W. Reagan Society at Eureka College, which is sponsoring the event. “ It is a harrowing near-tragedy from which Reagan emerged to become one of America’s most beloved presidents. But in this story, Wilber also celebrates the courage and professionalism of ordinary people who perform their duties as they do every day and saved Reagan’s life.  Everyone will walk away with a greater appreciation of the so-called ordinary people who do extraordinary things,” Morris said.  

The presentation will include information about Secret Service agent Jerry Parr, whose fast reflexes saved the president’s life; the surgeries performed on Reagan and Press Secretary James Brady; and the small group of White House officials who tried to determine whether the country was under attack.

Wilber received a bachelor’s degree from Northwestern University Medill School of Journalism. His crime coverage for The Baltimore Sun included the wrongdoing by Baltimore’s police chief, which led to the chief’s conviction on corruption charges and his sentencing to federal prison. In 2002, Wilber led the paper’s coverage of the D.C. sniper shootings, which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. Wilber received the Al Nakkula Award for Police Reporting from the Denver Press Club in 2004.

Wilber joined the staff of the Washington Post in 2004 as a police reporter and wrote numerous stories exploring the life of police officers and detectives.

In 2006, he became the newspaper’s national aviation writer, covering plane crashes, flight delays and aviation safety and security issues. He currently covers federal courts and federal law enforcement.

 For more information about the presentation, call the Reagan Society at 467-6319.