President George Ford served as President of the United States of America after the resignation of his predecessor, an unprecedented occurrence in our history. He had been the former vice president, another post he got after his predecessor resigned.
Some men always seem to have fate smiling upon them. Not only did he get to sit in the highest office in the land by default, but he also escaped death twice in one month, both assassination attempts.
Attempt number one failed simply because the gun used didn’t go off.
The would-be assassin, Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme, had gotten into the California state capitol building to end Ford’s life. Unluckily for him, he didn’t remember to put a bullet in the chamber.
Attempt number failed because a former US marine was close enough to stop the would-be assassin. Our hero that day was called Oliver Sipple.
Born in 1941, Oliver “Billie” Sipple lived with his family in Minnesota. He was not gifted in school, especially since he had dyslexia. Sipple dropped out of high school, joined the Marine Corps, and toured in Vietnam. He was discharged in the 70s when he decided to live in San Fransisco.
Even before joining the army, he maintained a don’t ask, don’t tell policy. By his discharge, San Fransico was full of gay rights activists, and it was simply a better place for gay people than his hometown of Minnesota. He joined the political train of supporters behind Harvey Milk, California’s first openly gay official. However, his world as he knew it came crashing down after fate made him a hero for a day.
On the 22nd of Sept, 1975, President George Ford was at the St Francis hotel, and many people were waiting outside for him to come out. Oliver Sipple was in the crowd after the event, making his way through. As the president got out of the Hotel, Sarah Jane Moore whipped out a .38 revolver with the intent to end his life.
She got off her first shot but missed. As she was taking the second shot, Oliver covered the distance between them and stopped her. He did not stop her from firing, but he changed the bullet’s trajectory. The bullet ricocheted off a pillar and grazed a taxi driver, who was taken to hospital after.
Moore was wrestled to the ground by Secret service agents and arrested.
From National Hero to Disgraced Son
The press was everywhere, each member trying to interview Oliver and get his side of the story. He was not into the attention and reportedly told off the media. Oliver insisted, saying he was not a hero. He just did what he felt was right.
The reporters wasted no time researching his background and dug into his story. It was not long before someone let slip that Oliver Sipple was gay. His friend and politician Harvey Milk was behind Oliver being outed to the public.
Being a gay rights activist, Milk wanted to show that gay people could be heroes and not the negative image people had of them.
Oliver did not wish to be outed. The story came out, and soon enough, his family and friends back in Detroit caught wind of it. They no longer wanted anything to do with him since they were a deeply religious family.
Sipple was enraged and sued different newspaper stations for a sum totaling about $15 million. The case was dismissed after nine years since, during the trial, several people, including friends and colleagues, were aware of his sexual preferences, and as such, it was not a secret.
Sipples’ life deteriorated after the incident, even after receiving a letter of thanks from President Ford, which he framed to his wall. He was already an ex-army man discharged after serving in the world war. Quite often, we see veterans getting discharged with mental issues. Oliver Sipple already had them before joining the army; by this point, he was already at rock bottom.
The national hero became an alcoholic, spending all his money in bars. A bottle of Bourbon was next to his body when they found it two weeks after his death.