The Speech That Saved Teddy Roosevelt’s Life
On October 14, 1912, just after eight o’clock in the evening, Theodore Roosevelt stepped out of the Hotel Gilpatrick in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and into an open car waiting to take him to an auditorium where he would deliver a campaign speech. Although he was worn out and his voice nearly gone, he was still pushing hard to win an unprecedented third term in the White House. He had left politics in 1909, when his presidency ended. But his disappointment in the performance of William Howard Taft, his chosen successor, was so great that in 1912 he formed the National Progressive Party (better known as the Bull Moose Party). He was running against Taft and the Republicans, the Democrats’ Woodrow Wilson and the Socialist ticket headed by Eugene Debs.
The Bull Moose himself campaigned in more states (38) than any of his opponents. On October 14, he began his day in Chicago, and headed to Racine, Wisconsin, before pressing on to Milwaukee.
When Roosevelt departed the Gilpatrick, he was wearing his Army overcoat and carrying a 50-page speech—folded double to fit into the breast pocket where he had also tucked his metal spectacles case. A stretch of sidewalk had been cleared to speed his walk to the car. As Roosevelt was settling into the back seat, a roar went up from the crowd when they saw him. At the moment he stood to wave his hat in thanks, a man four or five feet away fired a Colt .38 revolver at Roosevelt’s chest.
The assailant, John Schrank, an unemployed saloonkeeper, was tackled and quickly taken away. TR asked the driver to head for the auditorium. His companions protested, but Roosevelt held firm. “I am going to drive to the hall and deliver my speech,” he said.