Samuel J. Seymour
|Samuel J. Seymour|
Seymour (in center)
|Born||Samuel James Seymour
March 28, 1860
|Died||April 12, 1956
Arlington County, Virginia, U.S.
|Resting place||Loudon Park National Cemetery
|Known for||Last surviving person to witness the assassination of U.S. President Lincoln|
Samuel James Seymour (March 28, 1860 – April 12, 1956) was the last surviving person who had been present in Ford's Theatre the night of the assassination of U.S. President Abraham Lincoln on April 14, 1865. He was from Maryland and lived in Arlington, Virginia in his later years. He worked as a carpenter.
Night of April 14th, 1865
When Seymour was five, his godmother, Mrs. George S. Goldsboro, took him to see Our American Cousin. He said that the two sat in the balcony on the side opposite Lincoln's box. Seymour reported that "I complained tearfully that I couldn't get out of the coach because my shirt was torn—anything to delay the dread moment—but Sarah (nurse Sarah Cook) dug into her bag and found a big safety pin. I shook so hard from fright, it caused Sarah to accidentally stab me with the pin. I hollered 'I've been shot! I've been shot!'"
Once in the theater, Seymour settled down. He saw the President across the balcony as he was waving and smiling at people. Seymour said "I began to get over the scared feeling I'd had ever since we arrived in Washington, but that was something I never should have done. All of a sudden a shot rang out—a shot that always will be remembered—and someone in the President's box screamed. I saw Lincoln slumped forward in his seat." Seymour did not actually see the assassination but did witness Lincoln's assassin John Wilkes Booth jump off the balcony. In fact, he revealed that because he did not know Lincoln was shot or that Booth had shot him, his real concern was for Booth.
I've Got A Secret appearance
Just two months before his death, Seymour agreed to make an appearance on the February 9, 1956 episode of the CBS TV panel show I've Got a Secret. By the time he arrived in New York City to appear on the show, he had been in failing health and was using a cane to walk around. During his stay in the city, he fell down a flight of hotel stairs, which left him with a large swollen knot above his right eye. Host Garry Moore, after escorting Seymour onto the stage and into the seat next to his own, had mentioned that he and the show's producers urged him to forgo his appearance, but his doctor left the choice up to him, and Seymour was unwilling to miss it, which brought a round of applause from the audience.
During the game, Seymour was first questioned by panelist Bill Cullen, who quickly deduced, considering Seymour's age, that his secret was indirectly connected with the Civil War, and that it had political significance and involved a political figure, but it was Jayne Meadows who guessed that the political figure was Lincoln and that Seymour had witnessed Lincoln's shooting. Moore generously forfeited the $80 top prize Seymour would have won had he stumped the panel, and, because Seymour smoked a pipe rather than cigarettes, the show's sponsor gifted him a can of Prince Albert pipe tobacco instead of the normal prize of a carton of Winston cigarettes.
Seymour, who made his home in Baltimore, Maryland, for many decades and worked as a carpenter and contractor, died on April 12, 1956, at the home of his daughter Irene (Horn) Hendley in Arlington, Virginia, 15 days after his 96th birthday, just two days shy of the 91st anniversary of the Lincoln assassination, and 63 days after his appearance on I've Got a Secret. He was survived by five children, 13 grandchildren and 35 great-grandchildren. He was interred at Loudon Park National Cemetery in Baltimore.
- Fleetwood Lindley (1887–1963)