Jerry Parr

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Jerry Parr
Jerry Parr 2013.jpg
Born(1930-09-16)September 16, 1930
DiedOctober 9, 2015(2015-10-09) (aged 85)
EducationVanderbilt University
Loyola University
OccupationSecret Service Agent
EmployerUnited States Secret Service
Known forSaving President Reagan during his assassination attempt.
Carolyn Parr (m. 1959–2015)
, his death

Jerry S. Parr (September 16, 1930 – October 9, 2015) was a United States Secret Service agent. He was one of the agents protecting President Reagan on the day of his assassination attempt on March 30, 1981, and is widely credited with helping to save the President's life.[1][2]


Parr received his B.A. in English and Philosophy from Vanderbilt University in 1962. In 1987, he received his M.S. in pastoral counseling from Loyola University in Maryland.[3]

An ordained minister,[4] in 1987, Parr was awarded an honorary doctorate in Humane Letters from Eureka College.[3]

Career with the Secret Service[edit]

Parr's interest in joining the Secret Service originated as a boy after watching Code of the Secret Service (1939) starring Ronald Reagan as agent "Brass" Bancroft.[5]:18 He was working as a lineman for Florida Power and Light in 1962 when he was interviewed by a visiting recruiter for the Secret Service. When asked if he was able to assume the risks of the job, Parr replied it was probably no more dangerous than what he had been doing for the power company.[6] He joined the Secret Service at age 32, the oldest rookie in his class.[3]

Over the next 23 years, Parr conducted 15 foreign and 65 domestic protective surveys for various Presidents and Vice Presidents, and worked with security, intelligence and law enforcement professionals in all 50 states and in 37 countries.[2] From 1969-78, he worked for the Foreign Dignitary Division as a mid-level supervisor on the Humphrey, Agnew and Ford details, and directed security for 56 foreign heads of state, including Queen Elizabeth of England, Emperor Hirohito of Japan, King Juan Carlos of Spain and Pope John Paul II.[1][3]

From 1978-1979, he was Special Agent in Charge of the Vice Presidential Protective Division, where he directed security for Vice President Mondale. In 1979, Parr moved to the Presidential Protective Division, where he was Special Agent in Charge and Head of the White House Detail.[3] There, he directed security for Presidents Carter and Reagan. In 1982, he became Assistant Director of Protective Research, and in 1985, Parr retired from the Secret Service. Parr's story is told in his autobiography, In the Secret Service: The True Story Of The Man who Saved President Reagan (Tyndale House Publishing), co-authored by his wife Carolyn Parr.

Assassination attempt[edit]

US President Ronald Reagan waves just before he is shot outside a Washington hotel on March 30, 1981. From left are an unidentified man in a business suit; Parr, in raincoat, who pushed Reagan into the limousine; press secretary James Brady, who was seriously wounded; Reagan; Michael Deaver, Reagan's aide; unidentified policeman; Washington policeman Thomas K. Delahanty, who was shot; and secret service agent Tim McCarthy, who was shot in the stomach.

On March 30, 1981, John Hinckley Jr. opened fire on the President as he exited the Washington Hilton Hotel after giving a speech, firing six bullets in 1.7 seconds.[5] As Parr was pushing Reagan into the limousine, the sixth and final bullet ricocheted off the armored side of the limousine and hit the president in the left underarm, grazing a rib and lodging in his lung, causing it to partially collapse, and stopping less than an inch (25 mm) from his heart.[32][17][20] Parr's prompt reaction had saved Reagan from being hit in the head.[13]:224

After the Secret Service first announced "shots fired" over its radio network at 2:27 p.m., Reagan—codename "Rawhide"—was taken away by the agents in the limousine ("Stagecoach").[36][13]:66 At first, no one knew that he had been shot, and Parr stated that "Rawhide is OK...we're going to Crown" (the White House), as he preferred its medical facilities to an unsecured hospital.[37][36]

Reagan was in great pain from the bullet that struck his rib, and he believed that the rib had cracked when Parr pushed him into the limousine. When the agent checked him for gunshot wounds, however, Reagan coughed up bright, frothy blood.[32] Although the president believed that he had cut his lip,[37] Parr believed that the cracked rib had punctured Reagan's lung and ordered the motorcade to divert to nearby George Washington University Hospital, which the Secret Service periodically inspected for use.[23] Although Reagan came close to death, the medical team's quick action—and Parr's decision to drive to the hospital instead of the White House—likely saved the president's life.[32]

After the assassination attempt, Jerry Parr was hailed as a hero[5] and received Congressional commendations for his actions. He later said March 30, 1981, was both the best and the worst day of his life.[3] Parr came to believe that God had directed his life so that he could one day save the president's, and became a pastor after retiring from the Secret Service in 1985.[13]:224

Community service[edit]

Parr was very active in his church in Washington, D.C., where he was a former co-pastor, retreat leader and spiritual director. He served on the Board of Directors at Joseph's House, an organization for men with AIDS and co-founded Servant Leadership School.[3] In April 1992, he drove a school bus more than 3,000 miles from Washington, D.C. to deliver supplies to an orphanage in San Salvador.[7]


Parr died of congestive heart failure at a hospice in Washington, D.C. on October 9, 2015, aged 85.[4][8] He was survived by Carolyn, his wife of nearly 56 years, three daughters and four granddaughters.[6]

Awards and honors[edit]

Professional organizations[edit]

Parr was a member of the Association for Conflict Resolution and American Association of Pastoral Counsellors. Previously, he was the president of the Association of Former Agents of the U.S. Secret Service.[3]


Parr was a film advisor for the movies In the Line of Fire (1993) and Contact (1997), and for the documentaries In the Line of Fire: Behind the Scenes with the Secret Service (1993), and Inside the US Secret Service (2004). He also served as a commentator on:


  1. ^ a b "At The Edge Of Death". Newsweek. October 4, 1999. Retrieved 2008-08-13.
  2. ^ a b Sue Anne Pressley (March 30, 2006). "When History, Destiny Converged". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2008-08-13.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o "In The Secret Service". Tyndale House Publishers. Retrieved October 10, 2015.
  4. ^ a b CNN, Steve Almasy. "Jerry Parr, agent who helped wounded Reagan, dies - CNNPolitics". CNN. Retrieved 20 August 2017.
  5. ^ a b c Wilber, Del Quentin (2011). Rawhide Down: The Near Assassination of Ronad Reagan. Macmillan. ISBN 0-8050-9346-X.
  6. ^ a b Weil, Martin (2015-10-10). "Jerry Parr, Secret Service agent who helped save Ronald Reagan, dies at 85". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2018-03-03.
  7. ^ Jerry., Parr,. In the Secret Service : the true story of the man who saved President Reagan's life. Carol Stream, Illinois. ISBN 9781414378718. OCLC 833301074.
  8. ^ Wilber, Del Quentin (October 9, 2015). "Jerry Parr, U.S. Agent Who Saved Reagan's Life, Dies at 85". Retrieved October 10, 2015.
  9. ^ "Investigating the President: Should Secret Service Agents Have to Testify?". Larry King Live. CNN. July 14, 1998. Retrieved 2008-08-14.

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