Ford's Close Call
12-26) 21:26 PST Washington -- But for some quick action, Gerald R. Ford's presidency, and his life, could have ended amid gunshots outside San Francisco's St. Francis Hotel on the afternoon of Sept. 22, 1975.
As Ford emerged from the historic Union Square hotel's Post Street entrance at 3:30 p.m. after addressing a World Affairs Council audience, he paused before getting into his limousine to wave to the crowd across the street.
In a flash, two shots rang out. The first narrowly missed the 38th president of the United States and the second was deflected by a bystander who grabbed at the arm of the shooter, a 45-year-old middle class housewife, dabbler in extremist politics and FBI informant named Sara Jane Moore.
A young San Francisco police patrolman then subdued Moore before she could fire her .38 Smith and Wesson handgun again.
Secret Service agents pushed Ford into his limousine and in seconds had the presidential motorcade racing south toward San Francisco International Airport to get the president out of the city and back to the safety of Washington.
The Secret Service had good reason to feel it best to hustle Ford out of the state. After all, Moore's failed shooting was the second attempt on Ford's life in the state within about two weeks. On Sept. 5, 1975, Charles Manson groupie Lynette "Squeaky'' Fromme had tried to fire at Ford on the state Capitol grounds in Sacramento as he walked from the Senator Hotel across L Street to a meeting with then-Gov. Jerry Brown.
Fromme never got a shot off, even though her gun was loaded with four rounds, before a Secret Service agent wrestled her to the ground.
"Ford was puzzled by these shooting attempts,'' recalled presidential press secretary Ron Nessen, who witnessed both incidents. "But it was the '70s in San Francisco and California and there was lots of anti-Vietnam war activity and lots of anti-government activity.''
The big Bay Area news of the time was the kidnapping of newspaper heiress Patricia Hearst by the radical Symbionese Liberation Army.