On this date in 1912, a man named John Schrank shot Theodore Roosevelt in the chest with a 32 caliber gun. Roosevelt was on the campaign trail as he sought to return to the presidency.
The shooting took place in front of a hotel in Milwaukee as Roosevelt left to deliver a speech. As Roosevelt waved his hat to the crowd, Schrank raised his gun between two men and fired.
A newspaper report of the incident said, “Col. Roosevelt barely moved as the shot was fired. Before the crowd knew what had happened, (E. E.) Martin, who is six feet tall and a former football player, had landed squarely on the assassin’s shoulders and borne him to the ground.”
TR, meanwhile, put his hand to his mouth and determined that since there was no blood, his lung hadn’t been pierced. Believing he wasn’t in any danger, TR insisted on proceeding to the Milwaukee Auditorium to give his speech.
With his white vest soaked in blood, Roosevelt faced his throng of supporters and calmly said, “I have just been shot.” He drew the bloodied speech from his breast pocket, held up the bullet-pierced pages and said, “But it takes more than that to kill a Bull Moose. The bullet is in me now, so that I cannot make a very long speech… (but) I want you to understand that I am ahead of the game anyway. No man has had a happier life than I have led; a happier life in every way.”
Minutes later, Roosevelt collapsed and was rushed to the hospital.
Three weeks later, TR’s cousin, Nicholas Roosevelt, visited him at Sagamore and later recorded this in his diary: “In one of the drawers of TR’s bureau, (his son) found a wad of paper and suddenly exclaimed: ‘Oh, there’s the speech!’ and delving deeper brought out a spectacle case with a bullet hole through it. … The speech, done on heavy paper folded double, was pierced and badly torn. Through the spectacle case was a round hole about the size of a finger.”
Thankfully, Roosevelt recovered and went back on the campaign trail, but his time in the sun was pretty much over, and a third term was not to be his.
North Dakota’s Roughrider Award is so named in reflection of the state’s relationship to the 26th president.
Dakota Datebook written by Merry Helm