Humanity has seen a number of powerful, influential, and sometimes controversial leaders throughout history with many leaving a legacy to the world. Some of these leaders have died of natural causes whilst others have met a more traumatic demise finding their fate at the hands of another. We detail 10 famous leaders from ancient to modern times who were assassinated during their reign.
1. John F. Kennedy
John Fitzgerald Kennedy was President of the United States of America from 1961 until his assassination on November 22,1963. He was traveling through Dallas in an open top limousine when three shots were fired from a rifle. All three bullets hit the president, and he was confirmed dead soon after arriving at the Parkland Hospital in Dallas.
Despite the fact that his death was witnessed by a great number of people, there is still mystery surrounding his death. Many people suspect foul play, and this has led to the development of several conspiracy theories which accuse organizations such as the CIA and the FBI of being involved in the attack.
Interestingly, Lee Harvey Oswald, the man charged with the murder of the president, proclaimed innocence until he himself was murdered two days after JFK by a man named Jack Ruby.
2. Martin Luther King, Jr.
In the 1950s and 60s, racial prejudice was prevalent in many societies throughout the world. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a clergyman, activist ,and leader in the African-American Civil Rights Movement at that time. He fought for the rights of African-Americans and minority groups all around the globe.
He was a powerful public speaker famed for his ‘I Have a Dream’ speech which he delivered in 1963 to crowds in Washington during a peaceful protest march.
Unfortunately, in 1968 he was assassinated by gunfire on the second floor balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis. He was pronounced dead an hour later at St. Joseph’s hospital.
He will be remembered forever as a human rights icon who changed the world.
3. Abraham Lincoln
As the 16th President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln is famed for helping to bring about the end of slavery in the U.S. and for promoting economic and financial modernization.
He was shot and killed at Ford’s Theatre in 1865 by John Wilkes Booth, a confederate spy. Reportedly, John Booth waited until laughter erupted during the show before he pulled the trigger.
4. Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi
Mohandas Gandhi was the distinguished leader of Indian nationalism in British-ruled India. He promoted non-violent civil disobedience, inspiring many peaceful protest movements and activists throughout his life.
On January 30th, 1948, Gandhi was shot and killed by assassin Nathuram Godse, a Hindu nationalist with extremist ties. He believed that the political leader was weakening India by insisting that a payment was made to Pakistan. Ghandi’s killer and his co-conspirator, Narayan Apte, were convicted and executed on November 15th, 1949.
His funeral procession stretched for five miles and was made up of two million people or more.
5. Alexander Litvenenko
The late Russian KGB agent, Alexander Litveneko, is believed to have led several investigations for the FSB (Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation).
He became ill after eating in the London Sushi restaurant ‘Itsu.’ He was rushed to Barnet General Hospital in the capital city two days after dining at the Japanese restaurant, testing positive for acute radiation syndrome brought on by exposure to radioactive polonium-210.
The case received worldwide attention of the mass media due to the strangeness of the poisoning which was compared to the plot line of a Hollywood movie.
It is now widely believed that Litvenenko’s cup of tea was spiked with the radioactive isotope in his hotel room. To date, no one has been convicted of his murder, but some people suspect that the Russian government was involved in the killing.
6. Malcolm X
In the 1950’s, Malcolm X became one of the leaders of a religious movement called the Nation of Islam. This group preached self-reliance for black people and believed that black Africans should unify and become free from American and European domination.
Many of his teachings were inspired by Elijah Muhammad, another leader of the Nation of Islam, and were controversial as they proclaimed that black people were the original people of the world, and that white people were a race of devils created by an evil scientist called Yakub.
He was shot receiving a single bullet to the chest whilst preparing to address the Organization of Afro-American Unity in Manhattan’s Audubon Ballroom on February 21, 1965.
The perpetrator was seated in the front row of the audience and used a sawed-off shotgun. After the first blow, two other men stormed the stage firing semi-automatic handguns. Malcolm X’s body received a total of 21 gunshot wounds.
7. Julius Caesar
Born in Rome in the year 100 BC, Julius Caesar was a Roman general and statesman who was very powerful during ancient times. He was also a writer of Latin prose.
He became the leader of Rome after marching on Rome with a legion in 49 BC. He introduced many social and governmental reforms during his reign with notable works including the creation of the Julian calendar which was active until the commencement of the Gregorian calendar in 1582.
He suffered a bloody death in 44 BC at age 55 with the history books detailing an assassination at the Senate involving 60 or more men who stabbed him 23 times.
8. Fred Hampton
Fred Hampton was an African-American activist and deputy chairman of the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party, a revolutionary socialist organization involved in the Black Power Movement and politics of the 1960’s and 70’s.
The Black Panther Party became an icon of the counterculture of the 1960s. This counterculture was a phenomenon which advocated change, human rights, and experimentation.
Hampton studied law in Illinois during his youth, and this later helped him to defend himself and others against the police. He became a leader of the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People). He promoted social change through non-violent activism and community organization.
On December 3rd, 1969, Fred Hampton was shot in the head at point blank range by members of the Chicago Police Department during a raid. He had been sedated prior to the planned raid by an FBI informant. This is reported to have been done to ensure that Hampton did not awake up during the surprise attack.
9. Benazir Bhutto
Benazir Bhutto was a public left-wing politician and founder of the PPP (Pakistan People’s Party). She was the party’s chairman until her assassination in 2007.
She was killed while leaving a campaign rally for the PPP on December 27th, 2007 when she stood up through the sunroof of her bulletproof vehicle to wave to the crowds. A gunshot was fired at her and then explosives were detonated close to the vehicle killing an estimated 20 spectators.
She was later pronounced dead at Rawalpindi General Hospital. The cause of death was debated for some time until Scotland Yard investigators concluded that her death had occurred when she suffered blunt force trauma to the head as a result of the explosion.
Although respected by her rivals and admired as a symbol of female empowerment, she is criticized by some due to the controversial policies that she helped to enforce and her failings as a political figure as well as the corruption charges that she faced during her career.
10. Yitzhak Rabin
Yitzhak Rabin, an Israeli politician, statesman, and general was the fifth prime minister of Israel serving two terms in office. He was the first native-born prime minister of his country.
He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994 along with Yasser Arafat and Shimon Peres for his role in the creation of the Oslo Accords which was a face-to-face agreement which attempted to resolve the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The Oslo Accords reportedly divided the Israeli society with some perceiving Rabin to be a traitor for giving away lands belonging to Israel whilst others saw him as a hero who encouraged peace.
Yitzhak Rabin was killed on the evening of November 4th,1995 in Tel Aviv while attending a mass rally when Yigal Amir, a radical, orthodox Jew fired three shots at Rabin with a semi-automatic pistol.
Rabin suffered a punctured lung and a loss of blood as a result of the gunfire and was pronounced dead shortly afterwards at the Ichilov Hospital.