Forever linked in history; past President speaks

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Americans for more than 4 decades have been fascinated by the story of the Manson Family. Popular news media continues to cover the life of Charles Manson, even though it has been 40 years since his conviction for the conspiracy to commit the murders of Sharon Tate and Leno and Rosemary LaBianca carried out by members of the group known as the Manson Family and at his instruction. He was convicted of the murders through the joint-responsibility rule, which makes each member of a conspiracy guilty of crimes his fellow conspirators commit in furtherance of the conspiracy’s objective. Manson was sentenced to death on March 29, 1971. With the repeal of California’s death penalty laws, Manson has faced several parole hearings, but at 78 remains behind bars in California’s San Quentin Prison.

This story is not of Manson however, but of one of his beloved family members known as Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme.

In 1975, Fromme rocketed the Manson Family back into the media spotlight when she attempted the assignation of the 38th President, Gerald Ford (1913-2006.) It was reported at the time that Fromme had intended to confront the president about the plight of the California Redwood trees. Dressed in red, looking like a nun, the former choir singer pointed a Colt M1911 .45 caliber pistol at the President and was quickly subdued by Larry Buendorf, a Secret Service Agent assigned to the President. Fromme was sentenced to life in prison for her assignation attempt of Gerald Ford.

Tuesday of this week, President Ford’s recorded testimony was released to the media. The President recalls the events as he remembered them from that particular day. When asked when he [Ford] first saw Fromme, he replied, “I noticed a person in the second, or third row in a brightly colored dress, who appeared to want to shake hands or speak or wanted to get closer to me. I of course did not know who it was, but I remember that dress.”

Ford clearly did not know what was about to happen in Capitol Park, Sacramento, CA that morning. Who could know? Ford continues to recall seeing the gun manifest from the first row, but only the hand and arm that contained the gun. “The weapon was large and covered most of her hand. I only saw it instantaneously because almost automatically one of the Secret Service Agents [Larry Buendorf,] lunged, grabbed the hand and the weapon and I was pushed off by the other members of the Secret Service.”

The deposition really does not reveal anything more than history tells. But for the first time, we get to see and hear this president’s reaction to the attempt on his life. This case was however the first in history featuring the oral statement from a sitting president in a criminal case.

President Ford has the distinction of being the only US President that had multiple attempts made on his life by women.

Just 17 days after the arrest of Lynette Fromme, Sara Jane Moore standing across the street from the St. Francis Hotel fired a single shot at the President from a .38 caliber revolver. Moore had been picked up on a weapons charge and released the day before. The morning of the attempt, Moore in haste purchased the .38 caliber handgun. Not aware that the gun sights were off by roughly 6 inches, she missed the president, however the bullet did ricochet and hit a bystander.

Moore, realizing she had missed raised her arm to fire again. Oliver Sipple, a Marine no longer in active duty, bull rushed Moore, and has been credited with saving the Presidents life by with his heroism. It was noted in the trial that had Moore had her gun that was confiscated, along with 113 rounds of ammunition, the President would have been killed.

At age 77, Moore was released from prison in 2009. Fromme has also been released from prison. She was also paroled in 2009, just four months after Moore.

At the age of 90, during the 2009 Republican National Convention, Gerald Ford suffered two strokes but made quick recovery. That was just the beginning of health issues association with old age. President Gerald Ford died on December 26, 2006 at his home in Ranch Mirage, California, he was 93.

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