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William H. Crook

William H. Crook (October 15, 1839 – March 13, 1915) was one of President Abraham Lincoln's bodyguards in 1865. After Lincoln's assassination (while Crook was off duty), he continued to work in the White House for a total of over 50 years, serving 12 presidents. Crook, a member of the Washington Police Force and a former Union Army soldier, was selected as one of Lincoln's bodyguards in January 1865. On April 14, 1865, the day of Lincoln's assassination, Crook began his shift at 8 am. He was to have been relieved by John Frederick Parker at 4 pm, but Parker was several hours late. Crook tried to persuade the president not to attend a performance of the play Our American Cousin at Ford's Theatre that night, or at least allow him to go along as an extra bodyguard, but Lincoln said he had promised his wife they would go. As Lincoln left for the theater, he turned to Crook and said "Goodbye, Crook". Before, Lincoln had always said, "Good night, Crook". Crook later recalled: "It was the first time that he neglected to say 'Good Night' to me and it was the only time that he ever said 'Good-bye'. I thought of it at that moment and, a few hours later, when the news flashed over Washington that he had been shot, his last words were so burned into my being that they can never be forgotten." Crook blamed Parker, who had left his post at the theater without permission. Crook was later appointed Executive Clerk of the President of the United States in 1870, and Chief Disbursing Officer in 1877, the latter of which he would hold for the rest of his career, up until the presidency of Woodrow Wilson.

Photograph credit: Frances Benjamin Johnston; restored by Adam Cuerden

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