Special Report

The Stories Behind the Deaths of 39 American Presidents

Source: Wikimedia Commons

James A. Garfield
> When he died: Sept. 19,1881
> Age: 49
> Cause of death: Assassination (complications of a gunshot wound)

Attorney and political wannabe Charles J. Guiteau, who believed that Garfield’s death would reunite a fractured Republican Party, shot the president twice in July of 1881. Garfield lingered for months, undergoing various ineffectual medical treatments, before dying from infections complicated by pneumonia and heart problems. “Swaim, can’t you stop the pain?” he asked, speaking to his friend General David Swaim, and then left the world.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Benjamin Harrison
> When he died: March 13, 1901
> Age: 67
> Cause of death: Pneumonia

Harrison contracted a serious case of the flu in February of 1901. He grew sicker and developed pneumonia, which killed him in mid-March. His last words were “Doctor, my lungs….”

Source: rdb466 / Flickr

William McKinley
> When he died: Sept. 14, 1901
> Age: 58
> Cause of death: Assassination (complications of a gunshot wound)

The second U.S. president to be assassinated, McKinley was shot by an anarchist, Leon Czolgosz while attending the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo. He initially seemed to be recovering from his wounds, but got worse — from internal gangrene as a result of one of the bullets, it turned out. When his wife cried at his bedside saying that she wished to die too, he spoke his final words: “We are all going, we are all going. God’s will be done, not ours.”

Source: cornelluniversitylibrary / Flickr

Grover Cleveland
> When he died: June 24, 1908
> Age: 71
> Cause of death: Heart failure

Cleveland’s health had been poor for several years when he suffered a heart attack at home in Princeton. “I have tried so hard to do right,” he said before expiring.

Source: Topical Press Agency / Getty Images

Theodore Roosevelt
> When he died: Jan. 6, 1919
> Age: 60
> Cause of death: Blood clot

Having survived an assassination attempt in 1912, Roosevelt suffered in his later years from the effects of tropical diseases he had acquired in Cuba and on a two-year expedition to the Amazon. He was hospitalized in late 1918, and in early January of the next year, he died in his sleep when a blood clot reached his lungs. The last thing he said was apparently “Put out the light,” spoken to his valet before he dozed off.