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Yesterday in La Crosse

A close call for the president, 40 years ago



It’s happened five times in American history…a president has been shot while in office.  Abraham Lincoln was the first, in 1865.  Then Garfield, and McKinley, and John Kennedy was killed in 1963.  March 30th of 1981, Ronald Reagan had been president only two months.  Gunfire broke out as Reagan was leaving a Washington hotel after giving a speech.  Police counted four people hurt, including a Secret Service agent and White House press secretary Jim Brady.  Reagan was rushed into a limousine, but when he started feeling ill, he was taken to a hospital.  The TV networks started live coverage as the story developed.  Frank Reynolds on ABC is remembered for becoming upset when he reported that Reagan was not hurt, only to be told live on the air that the president actually was injured, hit in the chest.  

Reagan had surgery, and spent days in the hospital, but became the first sitting U.S. president to survive an assassination attempt.  The shooter, John Hinckley, said he committed the crime to get the attention of teenage movie star Jodie Foster.    The Oscars were delayed for a night because of the shooting.  The NCAA basketball final went on as planned.  John Chancellor reported that night on NBC, wondering why “these incidents seem to keep happening, and that is a real puzzle, and a tragic puzzle.” The Reagan shooting was in March, 1981, yesterday in La Crosse.            

A native of Prairie du Chien, Brad graduated from UW - La Crosse and has worked in radio news for more than 30 years, mostly in the La Crosse area. He regularly covers local courts and city and county government. Brad produces the features "Yesterday in La Crosse" and "What's Buried on Brad's Desk." He also writes the website "Triviazoids," which finds odd connections between events that happen on a certain date, and he writes and performs with the local comedy group Heart of La Crosse. Brad been featured on several national TV programs because of his memory skills.

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