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Tuesday, November 01, 2016

Presidential Assassination Attempt Thwarted 66 years Ago

Today, Brother Robert Johnson over on the Midnight Freemasons blog posted a brief story concerning an assassination attempt on November 1st, 1950 against President Harry S Truman by Puerto Rican Nationalists. The incident at the time was described as "...the biggest gunfight the Secret Service had ever seen." In the course of the attack, two White House police officers were wounded, and a third was killed - Leslie William Coffelt (photo). Despite being shot three times, Coffelt returned fire, killing one of the assassins, before he lost consciousness and collapsed from his own mortal wounds. 

Like Truman himself, Officer Leslie Coffelt was a Freemason. Brother Coffelt was a member of the District's Potomac Lodge No. 5.  

After Robert posted the story, he received a link to the Potomac Lodge's Facebook page that includes details about their fallen Brother. You may read it HERE, but not everyone has a Facebook account (hard to believe, I know). So, I reprint it below.

Every November 1st, the brethren of Potomac Lodge No. 5 honor the passing of White House Police Officer and Brother, Leslie W. Coffelt. On this day in 1950, two armed Puerto Rican Nationalists carried out a failed assassination attempt on the life of President Harry S. Truman who was living at the Blair House during the White House renovations. 
On the day of the attempt, Bro. Coffelt was stationed at the west corner guard booth of the Blair House when one of the assassins took Coffelt by surprise and shot him four times at close range, mortally wounding him. The assassin then moved to help his partner who had been engaged in a shootout with other secret service agents. Miraculously, Coffelt stumbled out of the guard booth, propped up against it, and fired his revolver at the assassins from 30 feet away, shooting one in the head, and killing him instantly. The other assassin was taken into custody and Coffelt was rushed to the hospital. He was pronounced dead four hours later. Coffelt was the only officer to die that day and thanks to the bravery of the Secret Service, the two assassins never made it into the building.
Coffelt was laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery with a Hero’s Honors. A Masonic Funeral was also performed by Potomac Lodge No. 5, in the presence of Mrs. Coffelt, members of the family, President Truman and Mrs. Truman, as well as other masons across the District of Columbia. The pallbearers for the event were fellow officers of the White House Police and all Freemasons. Pallbearers included: two brothers from Potomac Lodge No. 5, two from Anacostia Lodge No. 21, one from Petworth Lodge No. 47, one from Kemper Lodge No. 64 of Virginia, and one from Spencer Lodge No. 126 of South Dakota. 
 (Click to enlarge.)
Potomac Lodge is fortunate to have a copy of President Truman’s letter to the lodge expressing his sincerest thanks and condolences for the loss of Bro. Coffelt. We also have a letter from FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, who was an active mason, expressing his thanks for sharing a special commemorative newsletter regarding the passing of Bro. Coffelt.
Truman was a Past Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Missouri and a 33° Scottish Rite Mason, along with being, coincidently, the 33rd President.

Three and a half years later, on March 1st, 1954, four similarly motivated Puerto Rican Nationalists stood up in the spectator balcony overlooking the Chamber of the House of Representatives and opened fire, wounding five Congressmen: Alvin M. Bentley (R-Michigan) took a bullet to the chest, Clifford Davis (D-Tennessee) was shot in the leg, Ben F. Jensen (R-Iowa) was shot in the back, as were George Hyde Fallon (D-Maryland) and Kenneth A. Roberts (D-Alabama). Amazingly, all five survived the shooting.

Out of those five, Bentley, Davis, and Jensen were all Masons.

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