Monday, July 02, 2007

July 2, 1881:

President James A. Garfield Shot

In the summer of 1881, a delusional office-seeker named Charles Guiteau shot James Garfield, who had been president only since March of that year, at Sixth Street Station of the Baltimore and Potomac Railroad in Washington, DC. One bullet grazed the president's arm, the other lodged in his chest.

For Guiteau's fate, see June 30. As for Garfield, the ever-informative Dr. Zebra notes that, "At his trial, the assassin Guiteau admitted shooting the President, but denied killing him. Instead, he claimed that Garfield's physicians killed him. Although Guiteau was executed because his defense was not strong enough, he was probably correct.

"Garfield's original wound was 3.5 inches long, and ended with the bullet lodged in a harmless part of the abdomen. The wound was probed by the fingers of numerous physicians during the rest of Garfield's life so that, by the time of his death, the wound track was 20 inches long and oozing pus.

"It seems reasonable that the terminal event in Garfield's life was a myocardial infarction. However, the wound could have contributed to the terminal event in three ways, all of them derived from the fact that Garfield was mightily infected for a period of three months:

1. It seems reasonable to suppose that Garfield had anemia of chronic disease, which would have lowered the ischemic threshold.
2. Chronic infection could have led to amyloidosis. If it affected the heart, then it is not surprising that an ischemic event would have been so rapidly fatal.
3. It is becoming increasingly clear that coronary atherosclerosis is an inflammatory, perhaps infectious, disease. It is possible that Garfield's chronic inflammation and infection could have accelerated atherosclerosis."

Also: On July 2, 1932, Franklin Roosevelt delivered his acceptance speech to the Democratic National Convention in 1932 in Chicago. It was the first of FDR's great radio speeches, and "New Deal" entered the American political lexicon at that time.

On July 2, 1964, Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, a bill whose passage owed much to the new president's political skills. Its more formal title includes "To enforce the constitutional right to vote, to confer jurisdiction upon the district courts of the United States to provide relief against discrimination in public accommodations, to authorize the Attorney General to institute suits to protect constitutional rights in public facilities and public education, to extend the Commission on Civil Rights, to prevent discrimination in federally assisted programs, to establish a Commission on Equal Employment Opportunity, and for other purposes."

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