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Jerry Parr, Secret Service Agent Credited With Saving Ronald Reagan, Dies

Secret service agent Jerry Parr, right, is credited with saving President Ronald Reagan's life on March 30, 1981.
Ron Edmonds
Secret service agent Jerry Parr, right, is credited with saving President Ronald Reagan's life on March 30, 1981.

Jerry Parr, the Secret Service agent credited with saving the life of President Ronald Reagan, has died.

The Washington Post reports that Parr died at a hospice center in Washington. He was 85.

Parr became part of history when John W. Hinckley Jr. opened fire in 1981. As he described in many interviews since then, Parr heard the shots and immediately pushed Reagan into a waiting limo.

As he told Morning Edition back in 2011, at the time no one knew that Reagan had been shot. When Parr saw Reagan spit up blood, he made a fateful decision: He told the driver to head to the nearest hospital instead of to the White House.

"I took a chance that day," Parr said. "But Dr. Ruge, he said if you'd had gone to the White House first and then come back, he'd have been close to dying."

The New York Times spoke to his wife Carolyn Parr, who said that Parr was "proud of his work."

The Times reports:

"Mr. Parr was an agent for 23 years, his wife said, and retired in 1985. His fascination with the service began as a child, he wrote, when his father took him to see the 1939 film 'Code of the Secret Service,' which starred a young Mr. Reagan as Agent Brass Bancroft.

"'It was such a strange thing that me,' Mr. Parr said, 'seeing his image on a film when I was 9 years old, and then I ended up helping save his life.'"

In a statement to CNN, Nancy Reagan called Parr "one of my true heroes."

"Without Jerry looking out for Ronnie on March 30, 1981, I would have certainly lost my best friend and roommate to an assassin's bullet," she said. "Jerry was not only one of the finest Secret Service agents to ever serve this country, but one of the most decent human beings I've ever known. He was humble but strong, reserved but confident, and blessed with a great sense of humor. It is no wonder that he and my husband got along so well."

We'll leave you with audio of that 2011 Morning Edition interview, which is worth a listen:

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Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.