Se­cret Ser­vice agent Jerry S. Parr was cred­ited with sav­ing Pres­i­dent Ron­ald Rea­gan’s life in 1981.

The Washington Post Sunday - - METRO - BY MARTINWEIL

Jerry S. Parr, the quick­think­ing and fast-mov­ing Se­cret Ser­vice agent who was cred­ited with sav­ing the life of Pres­i­dent Ron­ald Rea­gan af­ter the 1981 as­sas­si­na­tion at­tempt in Washington, died Oct. 9 at a hos­pice cen­ter near his home in Washington. He was 85.

The cause was con­ges­tive heart fail­ure, said his wife, Carolyn Parr.

Mr. Parr had been an elec­tricpower line­man be­fore his Se­cret Ser­vice years and was a cler­gy­man in re­tire­ment. But he was best known for the fraught mo­ments af­ter gun­fire erupted March 30, 1981, as the pres­i­dent was leav­ing the Washington Hil­ton ho­tel.

In that time of chaos, Mr. Parr seemed the epit­ome of the firm jawed man of ac­tion: force­ful, res­o­lute, decisive.

At the pres­i­dent’s side when the shots re­sounded, Mr. Parr did not im­me­di­ately look for the gun­man, John W. Hinck­ley Jr. In­stead, ac­cord­ing to ac­counts, Mr. Parr placed his hand on Rea­gan’s shoul­der and pushed the pres­i­dent into an await­ing limousine.

The ve­hi­cle pulled away from the ho­tel, leav­ing be­hind a scene of blood and tu­mult. Also se­verely wounded by gun­fire had been White House press sec­re­tary James S. Brady, Se­cret Ser­vice agent Ti­mothy McCarthy and D.C. po­lice of­fi­cer Thomas De­la­hanty.

Although Mr. Parr and the pres­i­dent were mov­ing swiftly away from the car­nage, shielded by the ar­mor of a bul­let­proof ve­hi­cle, the agent’s re­spon­si­bil­i­ties were far from over. Care­fully, he ran his hands over Rea­gan’s body, search­ing for bullet wounds. He found none.

Then he rec­og­nized the omi­nous signs: The pres­i­dent com­plained about pain in his chest, and there was blood on Rea­gan’s lips.

Mr. Parr im­me­di­ately or­dered that the limo be driven to Ge­orge Washington Univer­sity Hos­pi­tal in­stead of the White House. The pres­i­dent sur­vived, but he had a close call.

“If Jerry hadn’t made the change,” first lady Nancy Rea­gan later told CNN host Larry King, “I wouldn’t have a hus­band.”

Doc­tors, not­ing the pres­i­dent’s se­vere loss of blood, some­times re­ported as three pints, have agreed with that as­sess­ment.

In the af­ter­math of the as­sas­si­na­tion at­tempt, Mr. Parr was hailed for his cool ca­pac­ity to con­front dan­ger and steer a path to safety. But the skills, in­stincts and abil­i­ties he demon­strated then gave an in­com­plete pic­ture of his char­ac­ter and per­son­al­ity.

Among those who knew him in­side and out­side the Se­cret Ser­vice, he was re­garded as a pa­tient man will­ing to hear out the trou­bled, to keep con­fi­dences and try to sug­gest a course of ac­tion.

He was called on so of­ten to play the part of wise ad­viser, his wife said, that af­ter re­tir­ing from the Se­cret Ser­vice in 1985, he ob­tained a master’s de­gree in pas­toral coun­sel­ing from Loy­ola Univer­sity in Bal­ti­more and be­came co-pas­tor of the ec­u­meni­cal Fes­ti­val Church in Washington’s Adams Mor­gan neigh­bor­hood.

Jerry Studstill Parr was born in Mont­gomery, Ala., on Sept. 16, 1930, and he grewup in the Mi­ami area. His first job was as a line­man for Florida Power and Light. It was of­ten haz­ardous work, and he was a pall­bearer at the fu­ner­als of eight col­leagues.

When he ap­plied to join the Se­cret Ser­vice in 1962, soon af­ter grad­u­at­ing from Van­der­bilt Univer­sity in Nashville, he was asked at an in­ter­view about what mo­ti­vated him to as­sume the per­ils of the job.

As he re­called it, his wife said, he replied that he did not ex­pect the work to be as dan­ger­ous as what he had been do­ing for the power com­pany.

In fact, Mr. Parr had been fas­ci­nated by the Se­cret Ser­vice from boy­hood. His fa­ther had taken him in 1939 to see the low-bud­get ac­tion film “Code of the Se­cret Ser­vice,” one of sev­eral movies in which Rea­gan starred as the dash­ing agent “Brass” Ban­croft.

“There’s a cou­ple of times where truth and train­ing con­verge, where history and des­tiny con­verge,” Mr. Parr told The Washington Post in 2006. “I thought about that for a long time. It’s that mo­ment— ei­ther you do it or you don’t, ei­ther you save him or you don’t.”

Over the years, Mr. Parr met and pro­vided se­cu­rity for some of the world’s most prom­i­nent fig­ures. His ca­reer took him to all 50 states and 37 coun­tries. He helped to pro­tect Pope John Paul II, and a pho­to­graph showed him along­side Ja­panese Em­peror Hiro­hito. As deputy spe­cial agent in charge of the for­eign dig­ni­tary di­vi­sion, he was cred­ited with over­see­ing pro­tec­tion for more than 50 world lead­ers.

He had been as­signed to pres­i­dents Gerald R. Ford and Jimmy Carter and be­came head of the White House de­tail in the pres­i­den­tial pro­tec­tive di­vi­sion in 1979.

In re­cent years, he and his wife co-wrote “In the Se­cret Ser­vice,” a memoir.

In ad­di­tion to his wife of 56 years, Carolyn Miller Parr, a for­mer U.S. Tax Court judge, sur­vivors in­clude three daugh­ters, Kim­berly Parr of Syra­cuse, N.Y., Jen­nifer Parr Turek of Sev­erna Park, Md., and Pa­tri­cia Parr of Fred­er­ick, Md.; and four grand­daugh­ters.

RON ED­MONDS/AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Se­cret Ser­vice agent Jerry S. Parr, right, shoved Pres­i­dent Ron­ald Rea­gan into his limousine af­ter an as­sas­si­na­tion at­tempt in 1981.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.