Presidents Who Died In Office

Memorial for William Henry Harrison, the first president to die in office.
Memorial for William Henry Harrison, the first president to die in office.

The American President is the head of state who is elected for a 4-year term through the Electoral College. The officeholder is the commander-in-chief of the U.S. Armed Forces and the leader of the executive branch of the federal government. Since the office of the president was formed in 1789, forty-five men have served as the American president. Eight American presidents have died in office, beginning with the death of William Henry Harrison. His death and the subsequent question of his succession caused a brief constitutional crisis. 

William Henry Harrison

William Henry Harrison was an American politician and military officer who became the ninth US president in 1841. Harrison died of paratyphoid or typhoid fever thirty-one days into his first term on April 4, 1841, resulting in the shortest term served by any US president. Harrison's death raised questions about the role of the vice-president in regards to succession to the presidency which were left unclear in the Constitution. Vice President John Tyler set an important precedent when he assumed office as the 10th president on April 4th, 1841. Harrison was the paternal grandfather of the twenty-third American president Benjamin Harrison.

Zachary Taylor

Zachary Taylor was the 12th American president who served from 1849 until July 9, 1850, when he died. Taylor is believed to have consumed a lot of cherries, green apples, cold milk, and ice water on July 4, 1850, and became ill the same evening. Taylor died five days later, and the cause of his death is listed as either bilious cholera or bilious diarrhea.

Abraham Lincoln

John Booth killed President Lincoln on April 14, 1865. Lincoln was the first US president to be assassinated. His assassination took place five days after General Robert Lee of Northern Virginia army surrendered to the Potomac army and General Grant Ulysses. Abraham was shot at Ford’s theatre while enjoying a play known as "Our American Cousin."

James A. Garfield

James Garfield’s assassination took place in Washington DC, less than four months after he started his first term as the 20th American president. He died on September 19, 1881. Charles Guiteau shot him at 9.30 am on July 2, 1881.

William McKinley

Leon Czolgosz shot President William McKinley on September 6, 1901. McKinley had just won his second term and was reluctant to accept the presidential security even when in public. McKinley died eight days after being shot from gangrene caused by the wounds. Czolgosz was an anarchist who had lost his job during the 1893 economic panic.

Warren G. Harding

Warren Harding was the 29th American president who died from a heart attack on August 2, 1923, in his hotel suite. Warren’s sudden demise led to numerous theories with people claiming that he had committed suicide or was poisoned. According to his physician, all the symptoms which the president had some few days before he died showed that he was suffering from congestive heart failure.

Franklin D. Roosevelt

Franklin D. Roosevelt served as the 32nd President and was elected an unprecedented four times. Roosevelt complained of a terrible pain at the back of his head before slumping forward on his chair on the afternoon of April 12, 1945. He was carried to his room, and he died at 3:35 pm on the same day. Dr. Bruenn diagnosed him with cerebral hemorrhage.

John F. Kennedy

Lee Harvey shot President Kennedy at 12:30 pm on November 22, 1963, while he was on his presidential motorcade with First Lady Jacqueline Lee Onassis, governor Connally, and Idanell Connally. After ten years of investigation, the Warren Commission concluded that Harvey acted alone. The commission also said that Ruby Jack, who killed Lee Harvey while in police custody worked alone.

Presidents Who Died In Office

RankPresidentTook OfficeDeath
1William Henry HarrisonMarch 4, 1841April 4, 1841
2Zachary TaylorMarch 4, 1849July 9, 1850
3Abraham LincolnMarch 4, 1861April 15, 1865
4James A. GarfieldMarch 4, 1881September 19, 1881
5William McKinleyMarch 4, 1897September 14, 1901
6Warren G. HardingMarch 4, 1921 August 2, 1923
7Franklin D. RooseveltMarch 4, 1933April 12, 1945
8John F. KennedyJanuary 20, 1961November 22, 1963

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