This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: Recently President Barack Obama appointed agent Julia Pierson to be the Secret Service’s first female director. I’m sure that Pierson, a 30-year veteran of the agency, is an excellent choice who will live up to the motto, “Worthy of Trust and Confidence.” I hope so, as this is an extremely important position.

Four times in American history the president of the United States has been assassinated. The first, of course was Abraham Lincoln who died on this day in 1865. Ironically, he ordered the creation of the Secret Service just hours before going to Ford’s Theater. The agency was originally created to investigate counterfeiting. Two more presidents, James Garfield and William McKinley, were assassinated before the Secret Service was assigned to give the president full-time security protection.

(Dave Blanchette/Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum)

On July 7, 1865, Mary Surratt became the first woman executed by the federal government when she was hanged for her role in the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.

Surratt owned the boarding house in Washington, D.C. where many of the conspirators lived and met. Her own son John was an active participant in the plot. But the depth of her involvement was as hotly debated then as it is now.

A unique collaboration allowed Illinois residents to be a part of that debate and to rewrite a small part of history, if just for the night.