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New book reveals just how close Reagan came to dying

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It is a story that is a major part of the Reagan legacy, but one that up until now we did not know the whole story. In a new book, Washington Post Reporter Del Quentin Wilber reveals that President Ronald Reagan came perilously close to losing his life on the day he was shot, March 30, 1981.

Wilber talked about his reporting in the book, Rawhide Down: The Near Assassination of Ronald Reagan during an interview on NBC12 First at 4.  He interviewed more than 125 people to get a minute by minute account of the day.  Including the call made by Secret Service Agent Jerry Parr that was one of many that day that saved the president’s life.

“On the way back to the White House, Jerry Parr makes a split second decision when he notices that Reagan is in distress to take him to the hospital instead (of the White House),” said Wilber. “He (Reagan) walks in, and then collapses.”

But getting to the hospital was only the first step in saving Reagan’s life. According to the many workers who tended to the president that day, he looked like he was on the verge of death. Inside the operating room, a 31-year-old surgical intern took the reigns.

“This 31-year-old kid reaches into Reagan’s chest and cups the beating heart of the president in his hands and nudges it aside,” said Wilber. “The room meanwhile is surrounded by armed Secret Service agents, what are they going to do? This guy is holding the president’s heart in his hand! That is when it struck me how big of a day this really was.”

Wilber has countless other stories like that in book. His full interview can be seen below. You learn more about the book here.


Del Wilber will be signing copies of the book Rawhide Down: The Near Assassination of Ronald Reagan Tuesday night at 6:30pm at Fountain Books on Cary Street in Richmond.

Written by Ryan Nobles

April 12, 2011 at 5:20 pm

One Response

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  1. While I vividly remember that day during my junior year of high school, I just finished this book. Great read.

    James Young

    April 13, 2011 at 10:30 am

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