The Tragedy of Oliver Sipple: The Man Who Saved President Ford

2 min read

| by Sydney Fairman |

In 1975, Oliver Wellington “Billy” Sipple was a 33-year-old Vietnam veteran living in San Francisco. In the same year on Sept. 22, Sipple was one in the crowd of 3,000 people that had gathered outside San Francisco’s St. Francis Hotel to see President Gerald R. Ford. Standing next to Sipple was Sara Jane Moore.

Within minutes, Moore had fired two shots from a revolver; the first narrowly missed the President. The second ricocheted and hit a cab driver, who survived, after Sipple dove towards Moore and grabbed her arm. Sipple was immediately hailed as a hero; the All-American, ex-marine who saved the President’s life. However, the narrative surrounding Sipple shifted within days, when he was publicly outed as homosexual.

Luzer, Daniel. “The Gay Man Who Saved Ford’s Life.” The Harvard Gay & Lesbian Review: A Quarterly Journal of Arts, Letters, and Sciences, vol. 16, no. 4, July-August 2009, p. 23+. Archives of Sexuality & Gender,

On Sept. 4, WDET rebroadcasted an hour-long RadioLab episode on Sipple. The episode, which originally premiered last September, goes into depth about Sipple’s halting of the assassination attempt on President Ford, his outing by gay rights icon Harvey Milk and the news media, his subsequent suing of news outlets and columnist Herb Caen and ultimate lawsuit dismissal as well as the ethics surrounding his outing, despite his stark opposition. Further information on Oliver Sipple and his impact can be found in Gale’s Archives of Sexuality and Gender.

Archives of Sexuality & Gender is the largest collection available in support of the study of gender and sexuality. It enables scholars to make new connections in LGBTQ history and activism, cultural studies, psychology, health, political science, policy studies, and other related areas of research.



Meet the Author

Sydney Fairman is the Marketing Associate at Gale. She recently graduated from Central Michigan University with a Bachelor of Applied Arts in Integrative Public Relations and Journalism. When she is not working, she enjoys watching documentaries, hanging out with friends and walking her beloved Golden Retriever, Henry.


Air Jordan 1 Low Releasing in Smoke Grey/Red

Leave a Comment