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National expert speaks on President Lincoln's assassination

By JR Ortega
Oct. 20, 2011 at 5:20 a.m.

Dr. Terry Alford speaks to an audience at Victoria College's Johnson Symposium about President Abraham Lincoln's assassination on Thursday.

Heather Crump may be pursuing a degree in nursing, but that is not to say history does not pique her interest.

The 18-year-old Victoria College student joined a full-house of Crossroads community members Thursday evening to listen to the college's second Lyceum Lecture Series lecturer, Dr. Terry Alford, an expert on Abraham Lincoln's assassination.

"Call me a nerd, but I think this is interesting," the freshman said. "He will be telling us a lot of stuff we didn't know about. Weird little facts."

Alford, a professor of history at North Virginia Community College, took the audience in the Johnson Symposium back to April 14, 1865, the day John Wilkes Booth assassinated President Abraham Lincoln.

Booth nervously leaned against a wall of the Ford's Theatre, unbeknownst to the audience, of course, carrying a small single-shot pistol and a large English-made hunting knife, Alford described, as if he had been there.

"He knew exactly at what time to do exactly when he needed to do," Alford said.

During a comic scene of "Our American Cousin," when the audience began laughing, Booth slipped behind Lincoln and yelled, "Freedom," and then shot a lead bullet into Lincoln's head right behind his left ear.

"Lincoln didn't make a sound. He didn't moan," Alford said, retelling the story. "It looked as if he had slumped over and fell to sleep."

A woman listening to Alford gasped, as if she had just seen Lincoln shot.

Chairs in the symposium creaked as people readjusted themselves after listening to Alford's 20-minute retelling of the assassination.

Alford's lecture went on to focus on Booth alone.

Alford is even writing a biography of the assassin that will be published in 2013.

"In looking at Booth as an individual ... he was in love with great people," he said.

Booth worshipped leader figures like Napoleon and Charlotte Corday, Alford said.

The year he assassinated Lincoln, Booth's behavior had become more erratic.

He had become more moody, edgy and he snubbed old friends, Alford said.

Alford went back to talking about Booth's escape from the theatre, again, holding the lyceum lecture series audience in the grips of his retelling.

The audience fell silent.

Alford finished telling the story and asked if anyone in the audience had any questions.

Still, the audience remained silent.

"That's what every teacher aspires for," Alford said. "Perfect understanding."

Ashley Hernandez, a radiology student at the college, isn't into history, but felt like she definitely left more educated on one of America's defining moments.

"He was really descriptive," the 20-year-old said of Alford. "I got a playback in my head. It was really nice."

In November, Michael Durant will be the Lyceum's guest speaker.

Durant is the master pilot and inspiration for the movie "Black Hawk Down."

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