The Most Famous Assassinations in American History

Source: Daniel Nicoletta / Wikimedia Commons

26. Harvey Milk, 1978
> Known as: San Francisco politician
> Killed by: Dan White
> Assassination location: San Francisco, California

As one of the first openly gay politicians, Harvey Milk championed anti-discrimination laws after he was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, leading the way for other gay activists to run for office. His murder at the hand of disgruntled rival Dan White sparked riots in the city and fueled the growing gay rights movement. The murders of Milk and Mayor George Moscone on the same day will also be remembered for the bizarre defense White used. Termed the “Twinkie Defense,” White claimed diminished capacity because of his junk food habit. White was nevertheless convicted of manslaughter, and the “Twinkie Defense” was banned.


Source: Getty Images / Bettmann / Contributor

27. John Wood, 1979
> Known as: U.S. district judge
> Killed by: Charles Harrelson
> Assassination location: San Antonio, Texas

Judge John Howland Wood, Jr. gained a reputation for being tough on drug traffickers, so much so that drug kingpin Jamiel Chagra ordered his assassination. He hired a hitman, Charles Harrelson, to shoot and kill the judge before he entered his courtroom. Wood’s assassination marked the first time a federal judge was murdered in the 20th century. His death is also noteworthy because his assassin is the father of actor Woody Harrelson.

Source: Harry Benson / Getty Images


28. John Lennon, 1980
> Known as: Musician
> Killed by: Mark David Chapman
> Assassination location: New York City, New York

As the founder of The Beatles, the most influential band of all time, John Lennon shaped music and culture for nearly two decades. His solo career only expanded his influence. A crazed follower, Mark David Chapman, shot and killed Lennon as he stood outside his Manhattan apartment building. The world lost not only his musical talent, but his activism for peace as well.

Source: Bettmann / Contributor / Getty Images


29. Allard Lowenstein, 1980
> Known as: U.S. congressman
> Killed by: Dennis Sweeney
> Assassination location: New York City, New York

Allard Lowenstein served one term as a U.S. representative for the Fifth Congressional District in Nassau County, New York, from 1969 to 1971. Throughout his career, he battled for human rights and opposed the Vietnam War. In 1968, he launched the “Dump Johnson” movement against President Lyndon Johnson. Lowenstein recruited students to his causes. One was a former protege, Dennis Sweeney, who had become disillusioned with Lowenstein, killed the former congressman in his office.

Source: Gobonobo / Wikimedia Commons


30. Alan Berg, 1984
> Known as: Radio talk show host
> Killed by: David Lane and Bruce Pierce
> Assassination location: Denver, Colorado

Known for his confrontational and outspoken liberal views, attorney and radio talk show host Alan Berg became a target for murder by members of a shadowy white supremacist group called “The Order.” He was killed by 12 gunshots. At the trial of Berg’s assassins, the extremist organization’s founder, Denver Daw Parmenter, admitted that Berg was singled out because of his Jewish faith and “anti-white” views.

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