Tim McCarthy

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Tim McCarthy
McCarthy in March 1981
Timothy J. McCarthy

(1949-06-20) June 20, 1949 (age 74)
Alma materUniversity of Illinois (BS)
Lewis University (MS)
Occupation(s)Secret Service special agent
Chief of police
Known forSaving President Reagan during his assassination attempt.

Timothy J. McCarthy (born June 20, 1949) is an American former policeman and special agent in the United States Secret Service. McCarthy is best known for defending President Ronald Reagan during the assassination attempt on Reagan's life on Monday, March 30, 1981, in Washington, D.C.

During the assassination attempt, McCarthy spread his stance to protect Reagan as six bullets were being fired by the would-be assassin, John Hinckley Jr.[1] McCarthy stepped in front of President Reagan, taking a bullet to the chest, but made a full recovery.

After the assassination attempt, McCarthy was hailed as a hero and received the NCAA Award of Valor in 1982.[2][3]

Early life[edit]

McCarthy was born on June 20, 1949, and was raised in Chicago's Ashburn neighborhood. He graduated from St. Denis Grammar School and Leo Catholic High School. He then attended the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.[4]

He joined the Fighting Illini football team as a walk on in his freshman year. He earned a football scholarship for his sophomore year and played as strong safety his junior year before an injury ended his college career.[5]

While there, he was a member of Delta Tau Delta.[6] He served 22 years in the United States Secret Service.[7]

Law enforcement career[edit]

His career included eight years assigned to the Presidential Protective Division in Washington, D.C., and 14 years as a criminal investigator in Chicago.[8] McCarthy was the special agent in charge of the Secret Service Chicago Division from 1989 until his retirement in October 1993.[9]

Reagan assassination attempt[edit]

McCarthy (far right) moments before the attempted assassination of Reagan (waving). Left, in white trenchcoat, Jerry Parr, who pushed the President, body-sheltered by McCarthy, into the car.

On March 30, 1981, John Hinckley Jr. opened fire on President Ronald Reagan as he exited the Washington Hilton Hotel after giving a speech, firing six bullets in 1.7 seconds.[10] As Special Agent In Charge Jerry Parr quickly pushed Reagan into the limousine, McCarthy put himself in the line of fire and spread his body in front of Reagan to make himself a target.[11][1][10][12] He was struck in the chest by the fourth bullet, the bullet traversing McCarthy's right lung, diaphragm, and right lobe of the liver.[12][13][14] McCarthy was not wearing a bullet proof vest.

McCarthy was not supposed to be on duty that day. At the last minute, the Secret Service received a request for an officer to provide protection to Reagan for an AFL-CIO luncheon on March 31. McCarthy and a colleague flipped a coin to see who would have to fill in on their day off; McCarthy lost.[10]

McCarthy was taken to George Washington University Hospital, and was operated on near the president.[15] He was later released after a 2-hour surgery.[16]

Post-Secret Service career[edit]

McCarthy became the Chief of the Orland Park Police Department in May 1994.[17]

In 1998, he ran for the Democratic nomination for Illinois Secretary of State against Jesse White of Chicago, then the Recorder of Deeds for Cook County, and State Senator Penny Severns of Decatur.[5] Severns was removed from the ballot after failing to meet the signature requirement. McCarthy ran an outsider campaign that took a law-enforcement approach to the Secretary of State's office including standardized DUI tests and easier to read license plates.[18] White won the primary election with 55% of the vote to McCarthy's 45% of the vote, or a margin of 100,195 votes.[19]

In 1999, he earned a Master of Science degree in criminal/social justice from Lewis University in Romeoville, Illinois.[17]

In March 2016, he was awarded the first annual Chief of Police of the Year award by the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police. The award cited his legislative advocacy, supervision of the building of the country's first police station to receive a LEED Gold certification, working to establish the South Suburban Major Crimes Task Force, promoting crisis intervention training for officers and the use of Narcan to prevent heroin overdoses.[20] From July 2016 to April 2017 he served as the acting village manager of Orland Park.[4][21] In recent years, he has served as the corporate vice president of a security systems company. Currently, he speaks to schools and conventions about his experiences as a Secret Service Agent during the Reagan administration.

On July 1, 2020, McCarthy announced his retirement effective August 1, 2020.[22]

Personal life[edit]

McCarthy is married and has three children.[17]

McCarthy was interviewed in 2016 about the release of John Hinckley Jr., and responded: "I don't have to agree with it, but I expected it. There are very few cases that people, after a period of time, are viewed as no longer being a danger to themselves or others. I hope they're right about it. It's a big decision. I give the judge credit. That's what he gets paid for."[23]


  1. ^ a b Crean, Ellen (June 11, 2004). "He Took a Bullet for Reagan". CBS. 'In the Secret Service,' [McCarthy] continued, 'we're trained to cover and evacuate the president. And to cover the president, you have to get as large as you can, rather than hitting the deck.'
  2. ^ "All-Time Honors Award Winners". NCCA.ORG. National Collegiate Athletic Association. Archived from the original on 2019-11-12. Retrieved 2019-11-01.
  3. ^ By means of the NCAA Award of Valor, the National Collegiate Athletic Association recognizes "courageous action or noteworthy bravery" by persons involved with intercollegiate athletics. McCarthy had played NCAA football at the University of Illinois.
  4. ^ a b Connolly, Dermot (July 14, 2016). "Chief McCarthy named interim village manager". The Regional News. Archived from the original on August 20, 2017. Retrieved November 13, 2016.
  5. ^ a b Tybor, Joseph (October 21, 1997). "Secret Service Hero Bucks Odds In Political Run: McCarthy Announces Candidacy". Chicago Tribune. Archived from the original on November 14, 2016. Retrieved November 13, 2016.
  6. ^ Des Garennes, Christine (August 6, 2014). "Reagan assassination attempt forever linked pair of Illini". The News-Gazette. Archived from the original on November 14, 2016. Retrieved November 13, 2016.
  7. ^ "Timothy McCarthy, who took a bullet for President Reagan, to retire as Orland Park police chief". Chicago Sun-Times. 2020-07-01. Retrieved 2023-03-30.
  8. ^ "Orland Park police Chief Tim McCarthy, the Secret Service agent shot while protecting President Reagan, to retire after 26 years". Chicago Tribune. July 2020. Retrieved 2023-03-30.
  9. ^ "Nancy Reagan and the Agent Who Took a Bullet for Her Husband Shared Special Bond". Orland Park, IL Patch. 2016-03-11. Retrieved 2023-03-30.
  10. ^ a b c Wilber, Del Quentin (2011). Rawhide Down: The Near Assassination of Ronald Reagan. Macmillan. ISBN 978-0-8050-9346-9.
  11. ^ Reagan Assassination Attempt (YouTube). Discovery UK. 2010-12-13. Archived from the original on 2021-12-22.
  12. ^ a b "March 30, 1981" Reagan's reflections on the assassination attempt, Ronaldreagan.com. Retrieved March 5, 2007. Archived December 27, 2010, at the Wayback Machine
  13. ^ Feaver, Douglas. "Three men shot at the side of their President", The Washington Post, March 31, 1981.
  14. ^ Hunter, Marjorie. "2 in Reagan security detail are wounded outside hotel", New York Times, March 31, 1981.
  15. ^ Office of Inspection. "Reagan Assassination Attempt Interview Reports" (PDF). United States Secret Service. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-07-21. Retrieved March 11, 2011.
  16. ^ "Reagan Wounded In Chest By Gunman; Outlook 'Good' After 2-Hour Surgery; Aide And 2 Guards Shot; Suspect Held". archive.nytimes.com. Retrieved 2023-03-30.
  17. ^ a b c "Chief of Police". Village of Orland Park. Archived from the original on 30 June 2019. Retrieved 30 June 2019.
  18. ^ Davis, Jennifer (January 15, 1998). Illustrations by Mike Cramer. "Secretary of State? Why are so many people competing for the chance to issue you your driver's license? Because it's the second most powerful state job. And arguably the most visible". Illinois Issues. University of Illinois Springfield. Archived from the original on November 14, 2016. Retrieved November 13, 2016.
  19. ^ "Election Results: General Primary (March 17, 1998)" (PDF). Illinois State Board of Elections. March 17, 1998.
  20. ^ Traut, Lauren (March 26, 2016). "Orland Park Chief Tim McCarthy Named State's Police Chief of the Year for 2016". Orland Park Patch. Archived from the original on November 14, 2016. Retrieved November 14, 2016.
  21. ^ Nolan, Mike (September 6, 2017). "Orland Park names village manager". Chicago Tribune. Archived from the original on April 13, 2020. Retrieved February 21, 2018.
  22. ^ Proctor, Clare (July 1, 2020). "Timothy McCarthy, who took a bullet for President Reagan, to retire as Orland Park police chief". Chicago Sun-Times. Archived from the original on July 2, 2020. Retrieved July 2, 2020.
  23. ^ Ben Nuckols and Joe Mandak (August 1, 2016). John Hinckley story Archived 2016-10-26 at the Wayback Machine

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