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John Frederick Parker - Printable Version

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John Frederick Parker - David Lockmiller - 05-15-2021 10:58 PM

The night Lincoln was assassinated, his new bodyguard went missing
Washington Post, By Ronald G. Shafer, May 2, 2021

On the afternoon of April 14, 1865 — five days after the South surrendered — [President Lincoln] told one of his bodyguards, William Crook, “I have perfect confidence in those who are around me, in every one of your men … But if it is to be done, it is impossible to prevent it.”

That night, the 56-year-old Lincoln went to see a play at Ford’s Theatre under the watch of a new guard, a D.C. police officer named John Frederick Parker.

Ironically, on this same day, Lincoln signed legislation to create the Secret Service — not to protect the president, but to combat counterfeiting. He was guarded round-the-clock by one member of a four-man security unit.

The 35-year-old Parker was an odd choice for this prestigious assignment. He had a record of unreliability, including drinking and frequenting a “house of ill repute” while on duty, according to the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, Ill.

Confederate sympathizers were everywhere in the capital. One of them was the famous 26-year-old actor John Wilkes Booth, who that day went to Ford’s Theatre to pick up his mail. The news was that Lincoln and Gen. Ulysses S. Grant planned to attend that evening’s Good Friday performance of the popular comedy “Our American Cousin.”

Lincoln wasn’t keen about going that night but didn’t want to disappoint the public. Grant and his wife decided to visit their children in New Jersey. So Lincoln and his wife, Mary Todd Lincoln, invited Clara Harris and her fiance, Maj. Henry Rathbone, to join them.

Parker reported for duty three hours late and was sent ahead to Ford’s Theatre.

The presidential carriage got off to a late start. The play had begun when Lincoln and his party entered the theater well after 8 p.m. They went to a special presidential box above the right side of the stage. The actors stopped, and the crowd stood and cheered as the orchestra played “Hail to the Chief.”

Parker had been provided a chair outside the door to the box in a passageway. But he couldn’t see the play and soon moved into the audience. At intermission, he went to the Star Saloon next door. Whether he returned to the theater is still a mystery.

RE: John Frederick Parker - LincolnMan - 05-16-2021 07:46 AM

The story of this man being employed by the D C Police never sat well in my mind. How could he, with his record, ever have obtained employment with the force? And then when employed, how did he secure the position as one of the guards to Lincoln that night, no less ? And how did he still have that particular assignment that evening after arriving for duty hours late?
And then wandered off from his post allowing Booth to murder Lincoln?

RE: John Frederick Parker - Gene C - 05-16-2021 08:50 AM

Derelict of duty is nothing new with the Secret Service.
A few can ruin the reputation of the entire organization. and

These are only a few of the events of the past 10 years

RE: John Frederick Parker - RJNorton - 05-16-2021 09:50 AM

One of Lincoln's other bodyguards, William H. Crook, said of Parker: "Had he done his duty, I believe President Lincoln would not have been murdered by Booth. Parker knew he had failed in duty. He looked like a convicted criminal the next day. He was never the same man afterward."

Parker was charged with neglect of duty, and there was a trial. But the case was dismissed, and the trial record of the Police Board disappeared.

RE: John Frederick Parker - LincolnMan - 05-16-2021 10:17 AM

From Roger:
“Parker knew he had failed in duty. He looked like a convicted criminal the next day. He was never the same man afterward."

To me that had to be an unimaginable weight greater than anyone could hardly bear.

RE: John Frederick Parker - Dennis Urban - 05-21-2021 01:05 PM

John Parker must have been a strange individual. Then again, the fledgling DC police was not known for the quality of their officers. If the records of the inquiry into his actions on the night of April 14 could ever be found (assuming they exist somewhere) many questions could possibly be answered. The media never pressured him on the matter and he seemingly escaped any interview on the subject. I do not feel he was part of the conspiracy, simply an inept officer who severely shirked his enormous responsibility.