Sunday, May 13, 2012

Too bad, too bad - poor Craig, how will my children feel


In 1900, William Craig joined the secret service and was transferred to Birmingham, Alabama and then to Pittsburgh and later to department headquarters in Washington, D.C. After the assassination of William McKinley, the Secret Service had been given the job of protecting the President of the United States. William Craig was now given this assignment. President Theodore Roosevelt was not sure he liked the idea but Craig with his Scottish accent became his shadow. In time they became close friends. He was often called “Big Bill” and was especially loved by the President’s children.

On September 4, 1902, the President was traveling between Pittsfield and Lenox, Massachusetts. He is riding in an open landau drawn by four magnificent bay horses with five other carriages following. It’s a beautiful day and large crowds lined the road as the President and his entourage moved quickly along a macadam turnpike. William Craig and the driver, David J. Pratt were sitting high up on the carriage.

Suddenly, a trolley car appears going in the same direction and traveling perhaps 25-30 miles per hour. It becomes a dangerous situation. William Craig, turns slightly and raises his arm in a signal to the trolley driver to stop. It is too late and the trolley hits the rear wheel on the left side and ploughs through to the front wheel of the big, open carriage. One horse is so badly injured that it had to be destroyed. The other three ran for another 30 to 40 yards pulling the overturned carriage along. The President and his other guests were thrown clear of the wreckage. David Pratt, the driver, was critically injured.

William Craig, as he turned to look back at the oncoming trolley, straightened in his seat, held his long arm over the President and uttered “O, My God.” He was thrown directly into the path of the trolley and all eight wheels passed over his body. The President, bleeding from his swollen face and blackened eye, dropped to one knee by Craig’s mangled body. “Too bad, too bad - Poor Craig, how will my children feel.” He would later call William Craig a “faithful friend.”

His brother brought the body back to Chicago and the funeral was held in the chapel of the Boylston Brothers, 4227 Cottage Grove ave. A simple service was conducted by the Reverend William W. Wilson of St. Mark’s Episcopal church. The President sent a large floral piece. The Secret Service office, located in the Rand McNally Building was closed for the day. Burial was in Oakwoods Cemetery. His mother, overcome by grief, was unable to attend. The man whose grave faced a concrete wall with barbed wire along the top would be forgotten.

In 2002, the Secret Service was celebrating 100 years of service and someone must have asked who was the first agent to die in the line of duty. A search of the records showed that it was a Scotsman, William Craig, buried in an obscure part of Oakwoods Cemetery.  This giant of a man, a hero in a long-forgotten war, was again remembered as a hero.

On September 3, 2002, the Secret Service paid tribute with a memorial service. Pipers played, dignitaries marched and a new marker detailing his life was installed. Brian L. Stafford, Director of the Secret Service said: “The tradition of excellence that each of our employees strive for today is built on a long history of commitment and selfless acts. William Craig is an important part of that history.”

Some members of the Secret Service have not fared well lately and the image has been tarnished somewhat but there are many serving who, like William Craig, stand ready to give their lives in the defense of their country and its President. We salute them today.

Wayne Rethford, President
Scottish American History Club

June 2, 2012 - Next meeting of the History Club. Our speaker is David Simpson. David has been collecting Scottish coins for 30 years. He is a graduate of Aberdeen University and has researched Scottish coins in the British Museum, the Ashmolean Museum and Aberdeen University. He is a member of the Chicago Coin Club, the Hillside Coin Club and the American Numismatic Association.

The Scottish American Museum opens at 9:00 a.m. - Meeting starts at 10 and ends at noon.

The History Club does not meet in July or August and there are no pies for the June meeting just scones and coffee. The scones are pretty good, however, so come and enjoy the presentation.

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