8 US presidents have sadly died whilst in office.
James A. Garfield (1881)
During his short time in office, Garfield intended to work with his naval secretary, William H. Hunt, to expand the US Navy. He also worked with his Vice President, Chester A. Arthur, to expand trade with Latin America. He strengthened the president’s powers by appointing William H. Robertson to the Collector of New York in defiance of New York senator Roscoe Conkling. Garfield ended corruption in the Post Office by halting profiteering rings who stole millions by arranging fake contracts on key routes. Sadly, his presidency and his planned naval reforms were cut short on July 2nd,1881,when he was shot in Baltimore Railroad Station, Washington DC, by Charles J. Guiteau. Guiteau was angry he was not awarded consulship by the President.
Warren Harding (1923)
Harding cut taxes for corporations and wealthy individuals, but he also increased tariffs on exports. He established the General Accounting Office to audit government spending. He nominated ex-president Taft as the Chief Justice to the US Supreme Court. Harding’s administration was tainted by the alleged corruption of senior cabinet members. During the Teapot Dome Scandal, the Secretary of the Interior, Albert Fall, fell from grace and was convicted of bribery after it was discovered he was renting public lands to oil companies in exchange for personal gifts. Harding, a Republican, died of what may have been a heart attack in the summer of 1923, though this has not officially been confirmed.
William Henry Harrison (1841)
Before Harrison’s inauguration, he allowed Daniel Webster to edit his speech. It was filled with classical allusions. He was nationalistic in his views, but Harrison respected that the will of the people that should be expressed through Congress. Before Harrison had been in office for a month, he died from a cold that developed into pneumonia. He was the first President to die in office.
John F. Kennedy (1963)
Kennedy created the Peace Corps by Executive Order in 1961. By the end of the Twentieth Century, there were over 170,000 Peace Corps volunteers in 135 countries. He ordered a covert mission to overthrow Cuban leader Fiedel Castro – the Bay of Pigs invasion – which transformed into an embarrassment for the Kennedy administration as Castro remained in power. From the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, where the Soviet Union sent ballistic missiles to Cuba, came the Limited Nuclear Test Ban Treaty between the US, UK and the USSR. This helped ease Cold War tensions and was considered to be one of the President’s proudest achievements. Kennedy was shot by Lee Harvey Oswald during a visit to Dallas on November 22nd, 1963.
Abraham Lincoln (1865)
Lincoln’s presidency is remembered for the American Civil War (1861-1865), fought originally to preserve the Union. But abolishing slavery also became a central objective for Lincoln due to his abhorrence of the practice dislike of it. By organising a peace conference between the Unionists who wanted to preserve the Union, and the Confederates who wanted to break away, in 1864, he was able to achieve both aims. Lincoln was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth on April 14th, 1865, whilst attending a production Our American Cousin. Booth despised the President due to his views on slavery.
William McKinley (1901)
McKinley came to office in 1897 when the 1893 recession was nearly over. He signed into law the largest tariff in US history at that time. He brought America into the conflict between Spain and Cuba by delivering a message of neutral intervention in 1898. But Congress passed three resolutions to declare war on Spain and liberate Cuba. The US destroyed the Spanish fleet at Santiago harbor in Cuba, seized Manila in the Philippines and occupied Puerto Rico. With the exception of Cuba, the Philippines, Guam and Puerto Rico were then seized by the US. After winning a second term in 1900, a deranged anarchist shot McKinley twice while he was standing in a line at the Buffalo Pan-American Exposition in September 1901. He died eight days later.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1945)
When Roosevelt became the 32nd president in 1932, it was during the aftermath of the 1929 Great Depression. Roosevelt acted to restore public confidence and he spoke directly to the public through a series of ‘fireside chats.‘ His New Deal brought reform, relief and recovery by lifting the prohibition of alcohol, introducing Social Security for US citizens and creating jobs through public works administrations. He worked with Britain and the Soviet Union to defeat the Nazis and the Japanese during the Second World War and laid the foundations for the United Nations. He died in office in April 1945.
Zachary Taylor (1850)
Taylor’s short-lived presidency was beset with problems. He called for the statehood of California, whose constitution prohibited slavery. Southerners in Congress were determined to stop a majority of free states from emerging in Congress, which resulted in the Compromise of 1850. The Compromise halted the secession of slave states in the South for a decade and California was admitted into the Union as a free state. Taylor died of cholera on July 9th, 1850, before he could see the Compromise become a reality.