Jerry W. Parr, BA’62, Matters of Life and Death

Photo of Jerry Parr with President Ronald Reagan and Nancy Reagan
Parr, right, directs security detail for President Ronald Reagan and Nancy Reagan in the early 1980s. (COURTESY JERRY PARR)


On March 31, 1981, Secret Service agent Jerry W. Parr was head of the detail protecting President Ronald Reagan during a speech at the Washington Hilton. When would-be assassin John Hinkley Jr. opened fire, Parr shoved Reagan into a waiting car and ordered him taken to George Washington University Hospital—actions credited with saving the seriously wounded president’s life.

Parr, who graduated from Peabody College with a bachelor’s degree in English and philosophy in 1962, received Peabody’s 2014 Distinguished Alumnus Award during Commencement on May 9.

From 1962 to 1968, Parr conducted foreign and domestic protective surveys and worked with security, intelligence and law enforcement professionals in all 50 states and in 37 countries. He worked for the Foreign Dignitary Division on details for Vice Presidents Hubert Humphrey, Spiro Agnew and Gerald Ford and directed security for 56 foreign heads of state.

He directed security for Vice President Walter Mondale and then moved to the Presidential Protective Division, where he was special agent in charge and head of the White House detail, directing security for Presidents Carter and Reagan before retiring from the Secret Service in 1985.

“At Peabody, I learned to think critically in order to make good decisions,” Parr says. “During my teaching practicum I learned to break a topic down into its parts so students could understand. I learned to respond to unexpected situations with creativity, flexibility and grace.”

With Carolyn, his wife of 55 years, Parr is author of In the Secret Service: The True Story of the Man Who Saved President Reagan’s Life (2013, Tyndale House).