Special Report

The Stories Behind the Deaths of 39 American Presidents

Source: iip-photo-archive / Flickr

Millard Fillmore
> When he died: March 8, 1874
> Age: 74
> Cause of death: Stroke

Unlike some of his predecessors, Fillmore apparently led a healthy life until he had a stroke in February 1874. He survived, but was felled by a second one the following month. His last words were apparently a comment on some soup he had been given on his sickbed: “The nourishment is palatable.”

Source: National Archives / Getty Images

Andrew Johnson
> When he died: July 31, 1875
> Age: 66
> Cause of death: Stroke

Like Millard Fillmore, Johnson suffered two strokes within a brief period of time, the second of them killing him. Some sources record his last words as being identical to those of Andrew Jackson, but that is almost certainly an error. At the moment of his death or shortly before, Johnson is reported to have said “My right side is paralyzed. I need no doctor. I can overcome my own troubles.”

Source: National Archives / Getty Images

Ulysses S. Grant
> When he died: July 23, 1885
> Age: 63
> Cause of death: Throat cancer

Grant was diagnosed with throat cancer in 1884, and died a year later. Some 1.5 million people attended his funeral in New York City; the tomb on New York City’s Upper West Side where he was laid to final rest in 1897 is the largest mausoleum in North America. Considering the nature of the ailment that killed him, it is perhaps not surprising that the final word he spoke was “Water….”

Chester A. Arthur
> When he died: Nov. 18, 1886
> Age: 57
> Cause of death: Stroke

Early in his presidency, Arthur was diagnosed with nephritis, a kidney disease. The state of his health waxed and waned in subsequent years, and he took a turn for the worse after spending a summer in Connecticut in 1886. Returning home, he had most of his papers, including presidential ones, destroyed. He died of a stroke or cerebral hemorrhage in November of that year. No final words have been definitively attributed to him.

Source: National Archives / Newsmakers / Getty Images

Rutherford B. Hayes
> When he died: Jan. 17, 1893
> Age: 70
> Cause of death: Heart failure

It was said that the soul left Hayes’s home when his wife, Lucy, died in 1889. He died less than four years later after suffering a heart attack. “I know that I’m going where Lucy is,” he said before he passed away.