Thursday, January 14, 2010

William Craig - Member of the Secret Service

William Craig was born in Glasgow, Scotland, and was a former bodyguard for Queen Victoria.  In 1900, he joined the American Secret Service in Chicago.  A year later he was assigned to the White House as the Secret Service took over the responsibility for protecting the president.  He is described as a "giant of a man" speaking with a Scottish accent.

The President, Theodore Roosevelt,  was riding in his carriage in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, September 3, 1902,  when an accident occurred.  A speeding trolley car crashed into the carriage and the impact instantly killed William Craig.  President Roosevelt, was thrown 30 feet and suffered cuts and bruises but was not seriously injured.  The President in speaking later of Craig said:  "He was a sturdy character and tremendously capable in performing his duties.  My children thought a great deal of him, as we all did."

The trolley was turning left onto the street and the president's carriage was turning right.  The trolley hit the left side of the carriage and the impact threw William Craig into the path of the trolley.  He died immediately.  One of the horses was injured so badly it had to be destroyed.  Police determined that the trolley operator was at fault, so he was arrested and taken to jail.

Craig was well-known in Chicago at the time, especially in athletic circles.  His mother and sister lived at 4334 Calumet Avenue.  He was the "physical director" at the Armour Institute and held a similar position at the Princeton-Yale school.  At both schools he gave frequent demonstrations as a swordsman and as a boxer.  "As a swordsman one of his feats was to place an apple on the head or on the throat of a boy, and with swift-blow split it without touching the boy."  (Try that in one of our schools today!)  Not sure why you want to do this but, "he could cut a sheep through at one stroke of the sword."

For twelve years he was in the British army and was recognized as the leading broad-swordsman.
He volunteered to go to the rescue of General Gordon under Kitchener.  "The party was gone three years, crossing the African desert and suffering much.  They arrived in Khartum only to discover that the General had been murdered.  He was decorated for this action.

William Craig was brought back to Chicago, buried in Oak Woods Cemetery and forgotten.  Forgotten, that is until August, 2002, when the United States Secret Service discovered that he was the first operative to die in the line of duty.   The Secret Service has now dedicated a bronze marker with details of William Craig's life and death.

Craig never married and the fate of his mother and sister is unknown.

No comments:

Post a Comment