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Black History Month: Witness Tackles McKinley’s Killer in Buffalo

Photo courtesy of the Buffalo Historical Society

On September 6, 1901, James B. Parker, a waiter at the Pan American Exposition in Buffalo, stood in line to shake President William McKinley’s hand. He emerged from this event as a hero when he tackled the anarchist Leon Czolgosz after the assassin shot the president twice in the stomach.  After the assassination, Parker received many offers to work on the Exposition midway, recounting his participation in Czolgosz’s capture, but he refused, stating “I happened to be in a position where I could aid in the capture of the man. I do not think that the American people would like me to make capital out of the unfortunate circumstances. I am no freak anyway. I do not want to be exhibited in all kinds of shows. I am glad that I was able to be of service to the country.”  

Parker was educated in Atlanta schools and had traveled as far north as Philadelphia. He’d returned south to Savannah, where he served as a constable for a Negro magistrate. He also worked in Chicago as a waiter in the Pullman Car organization and then came to Buffalo only days before the assassination to work at the Exposition for the Bailey Catering Company. By September 13th an article had appeared by a Mr. James Quackenbush that stated that he had seen no one else seize Czoglosz except the Secret Service men and artillerymen. Parker was not asked to testify at the trial.

Article courtesy of the Buffalo Historical Society

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