Dr. Willard Oliver is featured in National Geographics: "Top Secrets Presidential Assassinations."
Dr. Willard Oliver of Sam Houston State University, College of Criminal Justice, shared true stories of both successful and unsuccessful attempts on the lives of U.S. Presidents in “Top Secret: Presidential Assassinations,” which aired this month on the National Geographic Channel.
Dr. Oliver is the co-author of Killing the President: Assassinations, Attempts and Rumored Attempts on U.S. Commanders-in-Chief. He and Dr. Nancy Marion from the University of Akron chronicle the assassinations of four U.S. Presidents and the attempted assassination of 17 more over the history of the country.
“Presidents have faced more assassination attempts than most people know about,” said Dr. Oliver. “Four presidents have died by assassin bullets, two of which are quite well known (Kennedy and Lincoln), but less is known about McKinley and Garfield, as well as the numerous assassination attempts and rumored attempts on American presidents lives. In other words, 1 in 11 presidents have been assassinated, but approximately one out of three have faced an assassination attempt. There is not necessarily any rhyme or reason to them. Some of them were just crazy, and some had political motivations.”
While Drs. Oliver and Marion provide overviews of the issues during the television show, Dr. Oliver is profiled in a segment about the first attempt on the life of President John F. Kennedy. A month before he took office, a retired postal worker traveled to President-Elect Kennedy’s home in Palm Beach, FL with plans to rig his car with dynamite and ram it into Kennedy’s vehicle. The postal worker, who believed Kennedy had bought the election, only stopped when he found Kennedy with his wife and two children. Four days later, the postal worker was arrested and later committed to a mental institution.
Dr. Oliver’s book, an outgrowth of his Ph.D. research on the intersection of Presidents and crime policy, include the assassinations of Kennedy, Abraham Lincoln, James Garfield and William McKinley and the attempts on the lives of Andrew Jackson, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S Truman, Gerald R. Ford (twice and only a month apart), and Ronald Reagan. The book includes a biography of each President and assassin or would-be assassin, details about the assassination or attempt, and the aftermath of the event.
The book also chronicles assassination attempts where the Presidents were not in immediate danger as well as rumored attempts on the lives of the top leaders in the U.S.