The last surviving person to witness Lincoln’s assassination died in 1956. Samuel J. Seymour, born in 1860, was 5 years old when his godmother took him to see Our American Cousin at Ford’s Theatre on April 14, 1865.
They sat opposite the president’s box, which was draped with flags, and she lifted him up when Lincoln entered. “He was a tall, stern-looking man,” Seymour told the Milwaukee Sentinel in 1954. “I guess I just thought he looked stern because of his whiskers, because he was smiling and waving to the crowd.”
The play began and “all of a sudden a shot rang out — a shot that always will be remembered — and someone in the president’s box screamed. I saw Lincoln slumped forward in his seat.” The crowd began to stir and Seymour saw the assassin John Wilkes Booth tumble over the balcony rail and land on the stage. He called, “Hurry, hurry, let’s go help the poor man who fell down.”
Lincoln died the following morning, and the fleeing Booth was killed 12 days later. Seymour carried the memory of the experience with him for 90 years, until his death on April 12, 1956, at age 96. “That night I was shot 50 times, at least, in my dreams — and I sometimes still relive the horror of Lincoln’s assassination, dozing in my rocker as an old codger like me is bound to do.”
02/19/2016 UPDATE: In February 1956, two months before his death, Seymour appeared on the American game show I’ve Got a Secret, where contestants had to guess his claim to notability: