Last words have always held a fascination for me. This post quotes the last words of U.S. presidents. Most of the presidents lived to a ripe old age and their last words make it clear they were aware they were dying.
Some, like William Henry Harrison, must have carefully thought about the last message they wanted to share with the world. The last words of a few, such as Abraham Lincoln, Calvin Coolidge, and Jack Kennedy, were quite commonplace. Perhaps James Polk’s last words were the most beautiful.
George Washington – I am just going. Have me decently buried and do not let my body be into a vault in less than two days after I am dead. Do you understand me? ‘Tis well. I die hard, but I am not afraid to go.
John Adams – Oh, yes; it is the glorious Fourth of July. It is a great day. It is a good day. God bless it. God bless you all. Thomas Jefferson still survives… [Jefferson had passed away just hours earlier, unbeknownst to Adams.]
Thomas Jefferson – Is it the Fourth? I resign my spirit to God, my daughter to my country.
James Madison – Nothing more than a change of mind, my dear. I always talk better lying down.
James Monroe – I regret that I should leave this world without again beholding him. [“Him” was James Madison]
John Quincy Adams – This is the last of Earth! I am content!
Andrew Jackson – Oh, do not cry – be good children and we will all meet in heaven.
Martin Van Buren – There is but one reliance.
William Henry Harrison – Sir, I wish you to understand the true principles of the government. I wish them carried out. I ask nothing more.
John Tyler – Doctor, I’m dying. Perhaps it is best.
James Polk – I love you Sarah. For all eternity, I love you. [Sarah lived 42 years longer]
Zachary Taylor – I am about to die. I expect the summons very soon. I have tried to discharge my duties faithfully. I regret nothing, but I am sorry I am about to leave my friends.
Millard Fillmore – The nourishment is palatable.
Franklin Pierce – unknown
James Buchanan – Whatever the result may be, I shall carry to my grave the consciousness that at least I meant well for my country.
Abraham Lincoln – She won’t think anything about it. [Spoken to his wife, who was afraid the other couple that had gone to the theatre with them would see them holding hands.]
Andrew Johnson – My right side is paralyzed. I need no doctor. I can overcome my own troubles.
Ulysses Grant – Water.
Rutherford Hayes – I know that I am going where Lucy is.
James Garfield – Oh Swaim, there is a pain here. Swaim, can’t you stop this? Oh, oh, Swaim! [Spoken to General David Swaim]
Chester Arthur – unknown
Grover Cleveland – I have tried so hard to do right.
Benjamin Harrison – Doctor – my lungs.
William McKinley – Good-bye, good-bye all. It’s God’s way. His will, not ours, be done.
Theodore Roosevelt – Please put out the light.
William Howard Taft – Good morning.
Woodrow Wilson – When the machinery is broken… I am ready.
Warren Harding – That’s good. Go on, read some more.
Calvin Coolidge – Good morning, Robert. [Spoken to a carpenter working on his home]
Herbert Hoover – Lewis Strauss is one of my best friends.
Franklin Roosevelt – I have a terrific headache.
Harry Truman – unknown
Dwight Eisenhower – I’ve always loved my wife, my children, and my grandchildren, and I’ve always loved my country. I want to go. God, take me.
John Kennedy – No, you certainly can’t. [In response to Nellie Connally, the wife of the governor of Texas, who had just said: “You can’t say the people of Dallas haven’t given you a nice welcome, Mr. President.”]
Lyndon Johnson – Send Mike immediately! [Mike was the Secret Service agent who lived on Johnson’s property.]
Richard Nixon – Help.
Gerald Ford – unknown
Ronald Reagan – unknown
It’s a little odd that the last words of Ford and Reagan are not recorded, in a day and age where everything is public and the media is often aggressive in even the most personal matters.
Note: Presidents Jimmy Carter, George Herbert Walker Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama are still living.