John Parker: What Happened to Abraham Lincoln’s Bodyguard?

Apple TV+’s ‘Manhunt’ takes place at one of the most important points in the history of America. With the Civil War coming to an end, an already volatile environment of the country is thrown into disarray with President Abraham Lincoln being murdered by the actor John Wilkes Booth. The murder happens in public view while the President is enjoying the show. What’s worse is that after shooting him at close range, Booth jumps onto the stage and easily runs away. All this while, one wonders, how was the President of the United States without a security detail? Where was the man supposed to be guarding him? Moreover, what happened to him following the assassination? Was he held accountable for his negligence and incompetence?

Abraham Lincoln’s Bodyguard was Notorious for His Unprofessionalism

John Parker, a police officer in Washington, was supposed to be sitting outside the President’s box, keeping watch while the show played inside the theatre. However, because Parker couldn’t see the show from where he was, he left his post and moved to the gallery with other members of the audience. During the break, he decided to get a drink in a bar next to the theatre. It remains unconfirmed, even to this day, whether he ever returned to the theatre at all. But what is beyond doubt is the role his exceptional unprofessionalism played in changing the history of America.

Born in 1830 in Frederick County, Virginia, Parker started out with a career in carpentry. He left his home and moved to Washington when he was still young, and after trying his hand at being a carpenter, he turned to the profession of a machinist. He had a brief term in the army when the Civil War broke out, but eventually, in 1861, when the Metropolitan Police Force came into effect, he became one of its first officers. From his early days on the force, he displayed his negligent behavior in full force, getting about 14 disciplinary actions against him, with a plethora of other misconducts, before he was hired as a protection detail for the President.

Parker was often found drunk while on duty and was once found sleeping on duty as well. His excuses for his conduct often bordered on being comical, if not completely idiotic. Reportedly, when he was found spending a lot of time in a brothel when he was supposed to be on his job, he claimed that he was there at the request of the establishment’s owner, who had sent for him to protect the place from mischievous elements around the place. Despite the severity of his actions and his unprofessional conduct as a police officer, no official action was ever taken against him. He was often let go with a warning or some minor punishment when there were times when he could have been easily fired.

At 35 years of age, Parker had earned quite a reputation for himself, but somehow, he was still seen fit to be guarding the president of the country. On the day of Lincoln’s assassination, Parker showed his first sign of carelessness when he arrived three hours late to work. What followed next was one misstep after another. In fact, he wasn’t seen until the next morning, when he was brought in at the police station. Still, in the aftermath of the assassination, he faded into the background and wasn’t charged with neglect of duty until much later. Even then, the charges against him were easily dismissed, and he held no accountability for his actions.

How did John Parker Die?

What could be termed one of the biggest blunders of incompetence committed by anyone had no impact whatsoever on John Parker’s career. Rather, he went back to working at the White House, and while several people, including Mary Todd Lincoln, accused him of being responsible for the President’s death, there was no official punishment for him. Parker was eventually fired in 1868 because he was found sleeping while on duty.

After being sacked from his job as an officer of the law, Parker went back to being a carpenter. He spent the rest of his life in relative obscurity and died in 1890 at the age of 60 due to the complications caused by pneumonia. He was married and had three children. He was laid to rest in Glenwood Cemetery, where later, his family members were also interred. His grave, however, remains unmarked.

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