Sudden Death of a President | The Secret Service


Theodore Roosevelt was the first president to receive Secret Service protection.

Courtesy of Library of Congress

The United States Secret Service, established in 1865 to safeguard the nation's currency, is best known as the agency responsible for protecting the president. It took on this duty in 1901, after the assassination of William McKinley.

The special agents and uniformed officers' ever-expanding role now includes protecting the president and his family, presidential candidates, and former presidents and guarding executive offices and diplomatic missions.

After John Kennedy's death in 1963, the agency increased the number of agents detailed to the president, employed new communications technology, and became more proactive in intelligence gathering.



McKinley assassination note
Prior to Theodore Roosevelt's administration, presidential safety was an ad hoc mix of private security, local officers, and presidential confidants. The protection of William McKinley while on an 1897 Midwest trip was handled, quite effectively, by William Williams, director of public safety in Columbus, Ohio. When McKinley was assassinated four years later in Buffalo, New York, the Secret Service formally became the protector of the president.

White House policeman from the early 20th century

Courtesy of Department of the Treasury, United States Secret Service

Ford assassination attempt
The diligence of special agents like Larry Buendorf and Dick Kaiser was crucial to the agency's ability to protect President Ford from two assassination attempts in 1975. The attack by Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme on September 5 was thwarted when Special Agent Buendorf's hand pressed against her gun and prevented it from firing.

Courtesy of Gerald R. Ford Library



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