Presidential protectorJerry Parr

(Reading Time: 2 minutes)

When he was 9 years old, Parr went to the movies with his father. Playing: 1939’s Code of the Secret Service, with Ronald Reagan playing “Lt. Bass Bancroft” — the hero who saves the day. Parr was fascinated by the Secret Service, a real government agency which serves two main functions: financial crimes (mainly preventing and investigating treasury securities and currency counterfeiting), and protecting national leaders, such as the president. Decades later, Reagan was elected president of the United States; Parr, who joined the Secret Service in 1962, was promoted to be Special Agent in Charge and Head of the White House Detail, where he directed security for Presidents Carter and, later, Reagan. On March 30, 1981, Parr was in the field, directing security for Reagan. As the president left the Washington Hilton Hotel after giving a speech, Parr heard shots: John Hinckley Jr. had opened fire on the new President. Parr, who was closest to Reagan, grabbed the president and shoved him through the open door of his bulletproof limousine; another agent slammed the door behind them.

Parr ordered the driver to get going, and looked out the back window to see three bodies on the ground — White House Press Secretary Jim Brady, Washington DC policeman Thomas Delehanty, and Secret Service agent Tim McCarthy: all had taken bullets meant for the President, and all survived. In trying to protect Reagan, Parr had landed on top of him in the back seat of the limo; he then did a quick check of the President’s body, looking for any wounds from the gunfire. He didn’t find any, but noticed bright red blood on Reagan’s lips — a sign of a punctured lung. Parr ordered the driver to immediately divert to George Washington University Hospital. Reagan was able to walk to the hospital door, but quickly collapsed: a bullet had bounced off his car and hit him in the chest, under his arm, and he had already lost three pints of blood. Parr’s quick action in getting the President away from the scene, and recognizing the danger the blood represented and getting him to a hospital, is credited with saving Reagan’s life. After retiring from the Secret Service in 1985, Parr got a Master’s degree in pastoral counseling, and became the spiritual leader at his church. He died in a hospice on October 9, from congestive heart failure, at 85.

From This is True for 11 October 2015