Everyone dies. Even US presidents.
But before death comes life, and there are currently five US presidents still living today (including the incumbent President Donald J. Trump). The total number of US presidents stands at 45, although the real number is actually 44 since Grover Cleveland is counted twice (he was elected for two nonconsecutive terms).
The former presidents may be gone but they are certainly not forgotten. After all, the death of an American president is a national loss mourned by family, friends, and citizens alike. Each president’s final resting place is also considered an historically important site naturally accorded the respect due the highest office of the land.
US Presidents are Buried in a Surprisingly Wide Range of Locations
Several presidents were buried in garden/pastoral cemeteries near urban locations, while others were laid to rest in family grave plots in rural areas. Arlington National Cemetery, situated across the river from Washington D.C., currently hosts two presidential grave sites - William H. Taft and John F. Kennedy are both buried in this most famous of military graveyards.
Just as each former president displayed a distinct personality in their lifetime, the respective presidential grave sites often reflect their differing beliefs and values as well as the architecture of the period. Some presidential tombs are majestic and ornate, while others are simple and unassuming. Some of the early presidents were buried at their family estate, e.g., Thomas Jefferson at Monticello and James Madison at Montpelier but more recently the trend has been internment at the individual presidential libraries.
Is a Visit to a Presidential Grave on your Bucket List?
Numerous political historians, grave enthusiasts, and curious tourists make it a point to visit each US presidential grave in their lifetime. It’s an unconventional item to place on a bucket list for sure, but there are many interesting facts to learn about these burial sites such as:
- The state of Virginia has the most presidential burial sites (7) with New York close behind with 6 sites.
- John Adams (2nd US President) and Thomas Jefferson (3rd US President), both signers of the Declaration of Independence, both died on the same day — July 4th, 1826.
- Andrew Johnson (17th US President) is buried with his body wrapped in an American flag and a copy of the U.S. Constitution placed under his head.
- The remains of Ulysses S. Grant (18th US President) lie in the largest mausoleum in North America (according to the National Park Service).
- Richard Nixon (37th US President) is buried in the garden of his birthplace home in Yorba Linda, California.
Each burial site is significant in its own way, with some tombs taking on added cultural meaning based on the legacy of the specific leader. Some presidential grave sites worthy of a visit include:
George Washington (Mount Vernon, Virginia) – George Washington was the first president of the United States as well as one of the Founding Fathers. He died on December 14, 1799 and was buried at his home in Mt. Vernon as outlined in his will. The Mt. Vernon estate is now one of the country’s most visited historic places, and a special tribute ceremony occurs daily at the tomb of George Washington in remembrance of his service to the country.
John F. Kennedy (Arlington National Cemetery, Virginia) – President Kennedy was assassinated in November 22, 1963 in Dallas, Texas. Initially, it was announced that he would be buried in his hometown of Brookline, Massachusetts but Arlington Cemetery was eventually chosen as the final burial site. The eternal flame that marks Kennedy’s grave was requested by Mrs Jacqueline Kennedy as a lasting memorial to her husband, and millions of people have visited the grave site since it opened to the public in 1967.
Happy 2018 Presidents Day!
Christine Gatuiria is a freelance writer and the Founder of Funeral Creative