Felicia Harris, a long distance telephone operator in Oakland, Calif., kept a disgruntled ex-Marine talking for more than an hour until police could trace his call and arrest him at his home for threatening the life of President Richard Nixon in 1969.
Harris, 24, a former Pendleton resident and 1963 graduate of McEwen High School in Athena, was working for Pacific Telephone Co. while saving money to attend California State College at Hayward. She had spent several summers working for Pacific Northwest Bell Telephone Co. in Pendleton before moving to the Bay Area in 1968.
She received a phone call at 4:30 p.m. on July 23, 1969, from a man who asked a lot of questions about where President Nixon would appear in San Francisco before departing on a world tour. When she asked him why he wanted to hear the president, the man replied, “I don’t want to hear him. I want to see him. I’m very seriously considering taking a shot at him. I intend to kill the President.”
Harris kept him talking while signaling her supervisor, who called police. They plugged in to the line and Harris kept the man on the phone for an hour and 15 minutes while police and the Secret Service traced the call to an Oakland home. The man, George R. Donohue, 28, was still on the line with Harris when he was arrested. Officers also found a .22 caliber rifle loaded with 17 rounds of ammunition at Donohue’s home.
Donohue told Harris he was a former Marine facing a dishonorable discharge, that his marriage had failed and that he felt he would never be accepted by society. “That’s when he started talking about the ‘little guys like Lee Harvey Oswald and Sirhan Sirhan’ doing something in life to gain recognition. He said he wanted to make himself famous and I guess that could have done it all right,” said Harris.
During his arraignment Donohue denied threatening President Nixon, saying he had discussed shooting the president with Harris but that was different than making threats. He was ordered held for psychiatric evaluation.