Source: Shadow and Light
Source type: book
Document type: book chapter
Document title: “Chapter XXIX”
Author(s): Gibbs, Mifflin Wistar
Publisher: none given
Place of publication: Washington, DC
Year of publication: 1902
|Gibbs, Mifflin Wistar. “Chapter XXIX.” Shadow and Light. Washington, DC: [n.p.], 1902: pp. 327-35.|
|full text of chapter; excerpt of book|
|McKinley assassination; McKinley assassination (Czolgosz account); McKinley assassination (Samuel R. Ireland account); James B. Parker; James B. Parker (public addresses); McKinley assassination (James B. Parker account).|
|Crispus Attucks [misspelled below]; Leon Czolgosz; George F. Foster; Albert Gallaher [misspelled below]; Emma Goldman; Samuel R. Ireland; William McKinley; James B. Parker; Thomas Penney; George H. White.|
This chapter includes an unnumbered plate featuring a photograph of James B. Parker, with the following caption: “James B. Parker: Who, Inspired by Patriotism and Fidelity, Struck Down the Assassin of President McKinley.”
From title page: Shadow and Light: An Autobiography with Reminiscences of the Last and Present Century.
From title page: A Fatherless Boy, Carpenter and Contractor, Anti-Slavery Lecturer, Merchant, Railroad Builder, Superintendent of Mine, Attorney-at-Law, County Attorney, Municipal Judge, Register of United States Lands, Receiver of Public Monies for U. S., United States Consul to Madagascar—Prominent Race Leaders, etc.
From title page: With an Introduction by Booker T. Washington.
Leaving Chicago, and having business with the
President, I visited him at Canton, was kindly received, and accomplished the
object of my visit, little thinking that, in common with my countrymen I was
so soon to be horrified and appalled by an atrocity which bathed the country
in tears and startled the world in the taking-off of one of the purest patriots
that had ever trod his native soil.
The tragedy occurred at 4 o’clock p. m., on the 6th of September, 1901, in the Temple of Music on the grounds of and during the Exposition at Buffalo, N. Y. Surrounded by a body-guard, among whom was Secret Service Detective Samuel R. Ireland, of Washington, who was directly in front of the President, the latter engaged in the usual manner of handshaking at a public reception at the White House. Not many minutes had expired; a hundred or more of the line had passed the President, when a young-looking man named Leon Czolgosz, said to be of Polish extraction, approached, offering his left hand, while his right hand contained a pistol concealed under a handkerchief, fired two shots at the President. 
James Parker, a colored man, a very hercules in height, who was next to have greeted the President, struck the assassin a terrific blow that felled him to the floor, preventing him (as Czolgosz himself avers in the following interview) from firing the third shot:
“Yesterday morning I went again to the Exposition grounds. Emma Goldman’s speech was still burning me up. I waited near the central entrance for the President, who was to board his special train from that gate, but the police allowed nobody but the President’s party to pass where the train waited. So I stayed at the grounds all day waiting.
“During yesterday I first thought of hiding my pistol under my handkerchief. I was afraid if I had to draw it from my pocket I would be seen and seized by the guards. I got to the Temple of Music the first one, and waited at the spot where the reception was to be held.
“Then he came, the President—the ruler—and I got in line and trembled and trembled until I got right up to him, and then I shot him twice through my white handkerchief. I would have fired more, but I was stunned by a blow in the face—a frightful blow that knocked me down—and then everybody jumped on me. I thought I would be killed, and was surprised the way they treated me.”
Czolgosz ended his story in utter exhaus-  tion. When he had about concluded he was asked:
“Did you really mean to kill the President?”
“I did,” was the cold-blooded reply.
“What was your motive; what good could it do?”
“I am an anarchist. I am a disciple of Emma Goldman. Her words set me on fire,” he replied, with not the slightest tremor.
During the first few days after he was shot there were cheering bulletins issued by the medical fraternity in attendance, all typical of his early recovery, and the heart of the nation was elated, to be, a week later, depressed with sadness at the announcement that a change had come and that the President was dying. Never was grief more sincere for a ruler. He was buried encased with the homage and love of his people. William McKinley will live in history, not only as a man whose private life was stainless, and whose Administration of the Government was beyond reproach, but as one brilliant, progressive, wise, and humane.
Pre-eminent as an arbiter and director, developing the nation as a world power, and bringing to the effete and semi-civilized peoples of the Orient the blessings of civilized Government; as a leader and protector of the industrial forces of the country, William McKinley was conspicuous. With strength of conviction, leading at one  time an almost forlorn hope, by his statesmanship and intensity of purpose, he had grafted on the statute books of the Nation a policy that has turned the wheels of a thousand idle mills, employed a hundred thousand idle hands, and stimulated every manufacturing industry.
This accomplished, in his last speech, memorable not only as his last public utterance, but doubly so as to wise statesmanship in its advocacy of a less restrictive tariff, increased reciprocity, and interchange with the world’s commodities. His love of justice was imperial. He was noted in this, that he was not only mentally eminent, but morally great. During his last tour in the South, while endeavoring to heal animosities engendered by the civil war and banish estrangement, he was positive in the display of heartfelt interest in the Negro, visiting Tuskegee and other like institutions of learning, and by his presence and words of good cheer stimulating us to noble deeds.
Nor was his interest manifest alone in words; his appointments in the bureaus of the Government of colored men exceeded that of any previous Executive—a representation which should increase in accordance with parity of numbers and fitness for place.
The following excerpts from the Washington Post, the verity of which was echoed in the account of the crime by the  New York and other metropolitan journals on the day following the sad occurrence, gives a sketch of the manner and expressions of the criminal, and throws light on a peculiar phase of the catastrophe, that for the truth of history and in the interest of justice should not be so rudely and covertly buried ’neath the immature “beatings of time.”
Washington Post: In an interview Secret Service Detective Ireland, who, with Officers Foster and Gallagher, was near the President when the shots were fired, said:
“A few moments before Czolgosz approached a man came along with three fingers of his right hand tied up in a bandage, and he had shaken hands with his left. When Czolgosz came up I noticed he was a boyish-looking fellow, with an innocent face, perfectly calm, and I also noticed that his right hand was wrapped in what appeared to be a bandage. I watched him closely, but was interrupted by the man in front of him, who held on to the President’s hand an unusually long time. This man appeared to be an Italian, and wore a short, heavy, black mustache. He was persistent, and it was necessary for me to push him along so that the others could reach the President. Just as he released the President’s hand, and as the President was reaching for the hand of the assassin, there were two quick shots. Startled for a moment, I looked and saw the  President draw his right hand up under his coat, straighten up, and, pressing his lips together, give Czolgosz the most scorn[ful] and contemptuous look possible to imagine.
“At the same time I reached for the young man, and caught his left arm. The big Negro standing just back of him, and who would have been next to take the President’s hand, struck the young man in the neck with one hand, and with the other reached for the revolver, which had been discharged through the handkerchief, and the shots from which had set fire to the linen.
“Immediately a dozen men fell upon the assassin and bore him to the floor. While on the floor Czolgosz again tried to discharge the revolver, but before he could point it at the President, it was knocked from his hand by the Negro. It flew across the floor, and one of the artillerymen picked it up and put it in his pocket.”
Another account: “Mr. McKinley straightened himself, paled slightly, and riveted his eyes upon the assassin. He did not fall or make an outcry. A Negro, named Parker, employed in the stadium, seized the wretch and threw him to the floor, striking him in the mouth. As he fell he struggled to use the weapon again, but was quickly overpowered. Guard Foster sprang to the side of Mr. McKinley, who walked to a chair a few feet away.”
Washington Post, Oct. 9: James Par-  ker, the six-foot Georgia Negro, who knocked down the assassin of President McKinley on the fatal day in the Temple of Music, after the two shots were fired, gave a talk to an audience in the Metropolitan A. M. E. Church last night. He was introduced by Hon. George H. White. Parker arose, and after a few preliminary remarks, in which he thanked the crowd for its presence, he said he was glad to see so many colored people believed he did what he claimed he did at Buffalo.
“When the assassin dealt his blow,” said Parker, “I felt it was time to act. It is no great honor I am trying to get, but simply what the American people think I am entitled to. If Mr. McKinley had lived there would have been no question as to this matter. President McKinley was looking right at me; in fact, his eyes were riveted upon me when I felled the assassin to the floor.
“The assassin was in front of me, and as the President went to shake his hand, he looked hard at one hand which the fellow held across his breast bandaged. I looked over the man’s shoulder to see what the President was looking at. Just then there were two flashes and a report, and I saw the flame leap from the supposed bandage. I seized the man by the shoulder and dealt him a blow. I tried to catch hold of the gun, but he had lowered that arm. Quick as a flash I grasped his throat and choked him as hard as I could. As this happened  he raised the hand with the gun in it again as if to fire, the burning handkerchief hanging to the weapon. I helped carry the assassin into a side room, and helped to search him.”
Parker told of certain things he was about to do to the assassin when one of the officers asked him to step outside. Parker refused. He declared the officers wanted to get him out of the way. He said he helped to carry the assassin to the carriage in which the wretch was taken to jail.
“I don’t know why I wasn’t summoned to the trial,” he said.
Parker said Attorney Penney took his testimony after the shooting.
“I was not at the trial, though,” concluded Parker in an injured tone. “I don’t say this was done with any intent to defraud me, but it looks mighty funny, that’s all. ”
The above interviews with officers present agree with Parker’s version of the affair, and whether the afterthought that further recognition of his decisive action would detract from the reputation for vigilance which they were expected to observe is a fitting subject for presumption.
At the time of the occurrence Parker was the cynosure for all eyes. Pieces of the clothing that he wore were solicited and given to his enthusiastic witnesses of the deed, to be preserved as trophies of his action in preventing the third shot. No one present at that perilous hour and wit-  nessing doubted or questioned that Parker was the hero of the occasion. This, the better impulse, indicating a just appreciation was destined soon to be stifled and ignored. At the sittings of the coroner’s jury to investigate the shooting of the President, he was neither solicited nor allowed to be present, or testimony adduced in proof of his bravery in attempting to save the life of the Chief Magistrate of the Republic. Therefore, Parker, bereft of the well-earned plaudits of his countrymen, must content himself with duty done.
Remarkable are the coincidences at every startling episode in the life of the Nation. Beginning at our country’s history, the Negro is always found at the fore. He was there when Crispus Attacks received the first of English bullets in the struggle of American patriots for Independence; there in the civil war, when he asked to be assigned to posts of greatest danger. He was there quite recently at El Caney; and now Parker bravely bares his breast between the intended third shot of the assassin and that of President McKinley.
If this dispensation shall awaken the Nation to the peril of admitting the refuse of nations within our borders, and clothing them with the panoply of American citizenship; if it shall engender a higher appreciation of the loyalty and devotion of the Negro citizens of the Republic by the extension of justice to all beneath the flag, William McKinley will not have died in vain.