On This Day

gerald ford assassination, gerald ford assassination sara jane moore
David Hume Kennerly/Gerald R. Ford Library
President Ford winces at the sound of the gun fired by Sara Jane Moore, Sept. 22, 1975.

On This Day: President Gerald Ford Survives Second Assassination Attempt

September 22, 2011 05:00 AM
by findingDulcinea Staff
On Sept. 22, 1975, Sara Jane Moore’s attempt to assassinate President Ford was thwarted by Oliver Sipple, a disabled former marine. It was the second attempt on Ford’s life in less than three weeks.

Moore’s Shot Misses Ford

On Sept. 20, Sara Jane Moore, a political radical who had served as an FBI informant, told San Francisco Police Inspector Jack O’Shea over the phone that she was going to Stanford, where President Ford would be in two days, to “test” the “system.” She also asked O’Shea to have her arrested.

O’Shea contacted the FBI, which alerted the Secret Service, which arrested Moore the following day for possessing a concealed weapon. It confiscated her gun and ammunition, but allowed her to be released that day.

The next day, Moore purchased a .38 Smith & Wesson revolver and made several calls to authorities asking to be arrested, but she was ignored. Moore went to the St. Francis Hotel, where Ford delivering a luncheon speech to a foreign affairs group, and stood in the crowd beside Oliver Sipple, a disabled former Marine.

As Ford departed the hotel that afternoon, Moore pulled her gun from her purse. “There was a while when it was so crowded I wasn't sure I could get a clear shot. But it was so easy, it was unbelievable,” she said.

As she fired, Sipple reached out and grabbed her arm. Her shot fired high of Ford, hitting only a wall. Ford was rushed into his car by the Secret Service and driven away to safety. Moore was arrested before firing another shot.

Sipple was hailed as a hero. “All I did was react,” he said. “I'm glad I was there. If it's true I saved the President's life, then I'm damn happy about it. But I honestly feel that if I hadn't reached out for that arm, somebody else would have.”

Background: First Assassination Attempt

The first attempt on Ford’s life took place on Sept. 5 in Sacramento, Calif., as he was walking across a large lawn to the California Capitol. Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme, a follower of Charles Manson, pulled out a .45 caliber pistol and attempted to shoot the president, but the pistol did not fire.

Fromme was given a life sentence, but she was released in August 2009 after serving more than 30 years in prison.

Biographies: Ford and Moore

Gerald Ford
Gerald Ford served 25 years in Congress, serving as House minority leader from 1965 to 1973. Following the resignation of Vice President Spiro Agnew in October 1973, President Richard Nixon chose the popular and widely respected Ford to serve as vice president.

Ford became president less than a year later, after Nixon resigned due to the Watergate investigation. Serving from 1974 to 1977, “Ford continued as he had in his Congressional days to view himself as ‘a moderate in domestic affairs, a conservative in fiscal affairs, and a dyed-in-the-wool internationalist in foreign affairs,’” according to his White House biography.

Ford died on Dec. 26, 2006, at his home in Rancho Mirage, Calif., at the age of 93. “For a nation that needed healing, and for an office that needed a calm and steady hand, Gerald Ford came along when we needed him most,” said President George W. Bush.

Sara Jane Moore
Sara Jane Moore was a political radical living in the Bay Area. She was a follower of Marxism and was involved in groups such as People in Need (PIN), The United Prisoners Union and The Symbionese Liberation Army. Her outspokenness made it extremely difficult for her to hold a steady job.

The FBI approached her about her involvement in the United Prisoners Union, believing that she could provide them with useful information. Eventually word of her involvement with the FBI got out and she was shunned from activist communities in San Francisco.

Her alienation, coupled with the failure of three marriages, and her inability to hold a job, caused her to become desperate and violent, eventually ending in the attempt on President Ford’s life.

She escaped from prison two years after being incarcerated, but was immediately recaptured. She was released on parole in December 2007 after 32 years in prison. Months later, she gave an interview to the “Today” show and explained her motives for the assassination attempt, which she called “a serious error.”

“We were saying the country needed to change,” she said. “The only way it was going to change was a violent revolution. I genuinely thought that (shooting Ford) might trigger that new revolution in this country.”

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