Sermon Illustrations

Brother of John Wilkes Booth, Edwin Booth, Saves Abraham Lincoln’s Son

The story is told of two brothers. One of them would carry a letter to the grave that could have set the record straight, but I will tell you about that later. There was a man whose name was Edwin Thomas, a master of the stage (PP-3). During the latter half of the 1800’s, this small man with a huge voice had few rivals. Debuting in Richard lll at the age of fifteen, he found unrivalled success with his abilities to act out the great dramas of Shakespeare. In New York City, for one hundred consecutive nights he performed Hamlet and even in London where the tough British critics lived he one favor in their hearts with his acting skills.

When it came to difficulties in life, Edwin Thomas was quite acquainted with those also. Edwin Thomas was not alone for he had two brothers, John and Junius. They too, were actors, although they were not nearly as gifted as was Edwin. In 1863, the three brothers performed together in Julius Caesar (PP-4). The fact that Edwin’s brother took the role of Brutus was almost an eerie foreboding of what was to occur in just in the brother’s lives in just two years. One little decision would not only affect the brothers but an entire nation.

This same John who played the assassin in Julius Caesar is the same John who would play the role of assassin in Ford’s Theatre. On a dark April night in 1865 with the Civil War pulling at the heart and soldiers of a divided nation, John walked into the theater and fired a bullet at the head of Abraham Lincoln. . . . See, the last name of the brothers was Booth—-Edwin Thomas Booth and John Wilkes Booth. (PP-5)

That night would mark Edwin forever. He would never be the same again. The shame from his brother’s crime drove him into retirement. He might have never returned to the stage had it not been for a twist of fate at a New Jersey train station. Edwin was awaiting his coach when a well-dressed young man, pressed by the crowd, lost his footing and fell between the platform and the moving train. Without hesitation, Edwin locked a leg around the railing, grabbed the man, and pulled him to safety. After the sighs of relief, the young man recognized the famous Edwin Booth.

Edwin, however, did not recognize the young man whom he had rescued. That knowledge would come to him a few weeks later in a letter, a letter that he would carry in his pocket to his grave. A letter from General Adams Budeau, chief secretary to General Ulysess S. Grant. A letter thanking Edwin Booth for saving the life of the child of an American hero, Abraham Lincoln. How ironic that while one brother killed the president, the other brother saved the president’s son. The boy that was yanked to safety was none other than Robert Todd Lincoln.

(From a sermon by David Rumley, The Sum, 10/28/2009)

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