On March 30, 1981, a man shot and wounded President Ronald Reagan.
40 years later, Media and Communications professor Bill Dean says many don’t realize Lubbock’s connection to John Hinckley Jr., the man behind the gun.
“Obviously, the media dug into it and discovered he had attended Texas Tech,” Dean said.
University news reports surrounding the event show Hinckley attended off and on between 1973 and 1980.
Dean remembers a swirl of negative publicity for Texas Tech when the connection was found out.
“You know they tended to sensationalize it a little bit and I think there was an implication in one of the Philadelphia newspapers that students wore guns to class here, maybe rode horses around and maybe had a shootout at noon, you know,” Dean said.
Dean says east coast media tried to portray the university as the “wild west” and still makes those same assumptions sometimes, today.
“So, I think it’s important to remember it, it wasn’t a very fond thing to remember, but nevertheless, it’s history,” Dean added.
In another connection to Lubbock, Matt Crow, who works for Lubbock State Representative Dustin Burrows, became a presidential advance man for President Reagan in 1983.
“To be around the president and Mrs. Reagan years later, they didn’t dwell on it. President never talked about it, but the agents and the advance guys, they did talk about it,” Crow said.
Crow says from that point on, security changed.
That included magnetometers at presidential events, less visibility during outdoor events, using entrances other than the front door and a trauma team on standby at the nearest hospital.
Dean says one thing people should learn from the event was the country’s unification in Reagan’s recovery.
“Regardless of your politics, when someone shoots the president of the United States, you get down on your knees and pray that he’s going to be alright, whether you’re a Democrat or Republican," Dean said.
A federal court found Hinckley not guilty by reason of insanity and committed him to a hospital in 1982.
He was released in 2016 and now lives independently, maintaining contact with doctors and therapists.