Special Report

22 Famous People Buried at Arlington Who Weren’t in the Military

Tom Brenner / Getty Images News via Getty Images

Arlington National Cemetery was opened in 1864 to provide the final resting place for American servicemen who fought to save the union during the Civil War. As people walk past the rows of about 400,000 tombstones over the 639-acre layout, they see the names of those who fell in the nation’s wars, including some of America’s most renowned military leaders. (These are the highest-ranking officers in the U.S. military.)

Although the preponderance of graves are of those who gave their lives for their country in time of war or otherwise served in the armed forces, there are also those who gained prominence in other fields – including chief justices, nurses, journalists, orators, explorers, and astronauts, as well as some noted actresses and other women who are interred there because they were married to servicemen.

To compile a list of some famous people buried at Arlington National Cemetery who were not soldiers, 24/7 Tempo consulted the websites of Arlington National Cemetery and the National Women’s History Museum, as well as such media sources as the Washington Examiner, the Los Angeles Times, and the New York Times.

There are four Supreme Court justices interred at Arlington: William Howard Taft (who had also been the 27th president of the United States), Thurgood Marshall, Harry Andrew Blackmun, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. 

Other notables include nurse Jane Delano, a relative of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who founded the American Red Cross Nursing Service; Pulitzer Prize-winning war correspondent Marguerite Higgins; explorer Matthew Henson, the first African-American to reach the North Pole; orator, secretary of state, and three-time presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan; and astronauts Christa McAuliffe and Judith A. Resnik, who both perished in the Challenger tragedy – which easily ranks as one of the 20 worst disasters in space flight history.

The list also includes five actresses buried at Arlington – Fay Bainter, Constance Bennett, Phyllis Kirk, Priscilla Lane, and Maureen O’Hara, who were married to officers in the armed services.

Anita Newcomb McGee (1864-1940)
> Known as: First female surgeon in the U.S. Army

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Christa McAuliffe (1948-1986)
> Known as: First teacher in space; killed in the Challenger tragedy in 1986

Clark Clifford (1906-1998)
> Known as: Secretary of Defense under President Lyndon Johnson

Constance Bennett (1904-1965)
> Known as: Noted actress in 1930s and ’40s; interred with her husband, Brig. Gen. Theron John Coulter, U.S. Air Force

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Fay Bainter (1893-1968)
> Known as: Oscar-winning actress; interred with her husband, Lt. Cmdr. Reginald Venable, U.S. Navy

Harry Andrew Blackmun (1908-1999)
> Known as: Supreme Court justice

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Helen Herron “Nellie” Taft (1861-1943)
> Known as: First lady of President William Howard Taft; arranged for Japanese cherry trees to be planted in Washington, D.C.

Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis (1929-1994)
> Known as: First lady of President John F. Kennedy; American icon

James Parks (1843-1929)
> Known as: Freed slave, born on the grounds of the Arlington estate

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Jane Delano (1862-1919)
> Known as: Nurse and founder of the American Red Cross Nursing Service

Judith A. Resnik (1949-1986)
> Known as: Engineer and astronaut killed in the Challenger tragedy

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Marguerite Higgins (1920-1966)
> Known as: Known as: Pulitzer Prize-winning war correspondent; interred with her husband, Lt. Gen. William Evens Hall, U.S. Air Force

Mary Randolph (1762-1828)
> Known as: Distant cousin of Thomas Jefferson; author of the pioneering American cookbook “The Virginia House-Wife;” probably first person buried on the estate that became Arlington National Cemetery

Matthew Henson (1866-1955)
> Known as: Explorer and the first African-American to reach the North Pole

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Maureen O’Hara (1920-2015)
> Known as: Actress from the 1930s through 1990s; interred with her husband, Brigadier General Charles F. Blair Jr., U.S. Air Force

Phyllis Kirk (1927-2006)
> Known as: Noted 1950s-era actress; interred with husband, producer Warren Bush, who served in the Army Air Forces during World War II

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Priscilla Lane (1915-1995)
> Known as: Noted actress in 1930s and ’40s; interred with her husband, Lt. Joseph A. Howard, Army Air Corps

Ronald McNair (1950-1986)
> Known as: Physicist and astronaut who died in the Challenger tragedy

Ruth Bader Ginsburg (1933-2020)
> Known as: Supreme Court justice and liberal icon, known affectionately as RBG

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Thurgood Marshall (1908-1993)
> Known as: First African-American Supreme Court justice

William Howard Taft (1857-1930)
> Known as: President of the United States and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court – the only person to serve in both roles

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William Jennings Bryan (1860-1925)
> Known as: Politician and orator who ran for president three times and famously opposed the theory of evolution at the Scopes “Monkey Trial” of 1925

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