Samuel J. Seymour

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Samuel J. Seymour
Samuel J. Seymour (cropped).jpg
Samuel James Seymour

(1860-03-28)March 28, 1860
Easton, Maryland, U.S.
DiedApril 12, 1956(1956-04-12) (aged 96)
Arlington County, Virginia, U.S.
Resting placeLoudon Park Cemetery
Baltimore, Maryland
Known forLast surviving person to witness the assassination of U.S. President Lincoln

Samuel James Seymour (March 28, 1860 – April 12, 1956) was an American man who claimed to be the last surviving person to witness the assassination of U.S. President Lincoln on April 14, 1865.

Personal life[edit]

Seymour was from Talbot County, Maryland. His parents, George and Susan Seymour, had a farm near Easton, Maryland. He later lived in Arlington, Virginia. He worked as a carpenter and contractor, and lived most of his later life in Baltimore. He married Mary Rebecca Twilley.[1] He died April 12, 1956, at the home of his daughter in Arlington, survived by five children, thirteen grandchildren and 35 great-grandchildren. He was buried at Baltimore's Loudon Park Cemetery.

Witness to Lincoln assassination[edit]

In 1954, at the age of 94, Seymour gave his account of the assassination to the journalist Frances Spatz Leighton.[2] This was the first occasion on which told his story in a public forum.[3]

Seymour claimed that on April 14, 1865, when he was five years old, Sarah Cook, his nurse, along with his godmother Mrs. Goldsborough, who was the wife of his father's employer, took him to see Our American Cousin at Ford's Theater in Washington, D.C., where they sat in the balcony across the theater from the presidential box.[2] He said he saw Lincoln come into the box, waving and smiling. Later, "All of a sudden a shot rang out ... and someone in the President's box screamed. I saw Lincoln slumped forward in his seat." Seymour watched John Wilkes Booth jump from the box to the stage. He remembered that, not understanding what had happened to Lincoln, he was very concerned for Booth, who broke his leg, disputedly, in the jump.[2]

I've Got a Secret appearance[edit]

Seymour on I've Got a Secret in 1956.

Exactly nine weeks before his death, Seymour appeared on the February 9, 1956, broadcast of the CBS TV panel show I've Got a Secret.[4] After arriving in New York City he suffered a fall, which left him with a noticeable swelling above his right eye. Host Garry Moore, after bringing Seymour on stage, explained the injury and that he and the show's producers had urged Seymour to forgo his appearance on the show; that Seymour's doctor had left the choice up to his patient; and that Seymour very much wanted to appear.[5]

During the game, Seymour was first questioned by panelist Bill Cullen, who quickly surmised from Seymour's age that his secret was somehow connected with the American Civil War, then correctly guessed that it had political significance and involved a political figure. Jayne Meadows then guessed that the political figure was Lincoln, after a fellow contestant jokingly whispered "McKinley," and finally that Seymour had witnessed Lincoln's assassination. The rules of the show were that he would win $20 for each of the four panelists who failed to guess his secret. Since the secret was guessed by Jayne Meadows, the second of four panelists, he would normally have won only $20 but the host decided to generously award the entire $80 jackpot to Seymour for his courage in appearing on the show. Also because Seymour smoked a pipe rather than cigarettes, the show's sponsor, R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company gave him a can of Prince Albert pipe tobacco instead of the usual prize of a carton of Winston cigarettes.

In 2018, Ford's Theatre published an essay expressing cynicism about Seymour's witness account. The museum said it was "curious" that Seymour didn't publicly share his childhood memory until the age of 94. It also noted that that there is no documented record proving that Seymour, Sarah Goode, or Mrs. Goldsborough was present at the theatre when Lincoln was shot.[3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Talbot man was last to see Abe Lincoln". The Star-Democrat. Easton, Maryland. 2 November 1982. p. 6. Retrieved 2019-04-16 – via
  2. ^ a b c Seymour, Samuel J.; Leighton, Frances Spatz (February 7, 1954). "I Saw Lincoln Shot". The Cincinnati Enquirer. Cincinnati, Ohio. p. 173. Retrieved April 1, 2020 – via{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  3. ^ a b Queen, Melissa (December 31, 2018). "I've Got a Secret: Evaluating Historic Truth". Retrieved May 24, 2023.
  4. ^ Freed, Benjamin R. (October 18, 2012). "Man Who Witnessed Lincoln's Assassination Was on a Game Show in 1956". DCist. Gothamist. Archived from the original on February 5, 2018. Retrieved June 15, 2018.
  5. ^ Moore, Garry; Seymour, Samuel J.; Cullen, Bill; Morgan, Henry; Ball, Lucille (February 9, 1956). "Last Witness to President Abraham Lincoln Assassination". I've Got a Secret. CBS. Archived from the original on 2021-12-21. Retrieved 2 August 2020 – via YouTube.