Which Presidents Died While Serving in Office?

Eight Presidents Have Died While in Office

portrait of William McKinley
William McKinley. Getty Images

Eight Presidents of the United States have died while in office. Of these, half were assassinated; the other four died of natural causes. 

Presidents Who Died in Office of Natural Causes

William Henry Harrison was an army general who played a major role in the War of 1812. He ran for president twice, both times with the Whig party; he lost to Democrat Martin van Buren in 1836, but, with John Tyler as his running mate, beat van Buren in 1840. At his inauguration, Harrison insisted on riding horseback and delivering a two-hour inaugural speech in the pouring rain. Legend has it that he developed pneumonia as a result of exposure, but in fact, he became ill several weeks later. It is likely that his death was actually a result of septic shock related to the poor quality of the drinking water at the White House. April 4, 1841, died of pneumonia after giving a long inaugural address in the cold and rain. 

Zachary Taylor was a renowned general with no political experience and relatively little interest in politics. He was nevertheless courted by the Whig Party as a presidential candidate and won the election in 1848. Taylor had few political convictions; his major focus while in office was to keep the Union together despite increasing pressures related to the issue of enslavement. On July 9, 1850, he died of cholera after eating tainted cherries and milk in the middle of the summer.

Warren G. Harding was a successful newspaperman and politician from Ohio. He won his Presidential election in a landslide and was a popular president until years after his death when details of scandals (including adultery) soured public opinion. Harding had been in questionable health for many years before he died on August 2, 1923, most likely of a heart attack.

Franklin D. Roosevelt is often considered to be one of America's greatest presidents. He served nearly four terms, guiding the United States through the Depression and World War II. A victim of polio, he had a number of health issues throughout his adult life. By 1940 he had been diagnosed with a number of major illnesses including congestive heart failure. Despite this issues, he was On April 12, 1945, he died of a cerebral hemorrhage.

Presidents Who Were Assassinated While in Office

James Garfield was a career politician. He served nine terms in the House of Representatives and had been elected to the Senate before he ran for president. Because he did not take his Senate seat, he became the only president to be elected directly from the House. Garfield was shot by an assassin who is believed to have been schizophrenic. On September 19, 1881, he died of blood poisoning caused by an infection related to his wound.

Abraham Lincolnone of the best-beloved Presidents of the United States, guided the nation through a bloody Civil War and managed the process of reinstating the Union. On April 14, 1865, just a few days after the surrender of General Robert E. Lee, he was shot while at the Ford's Theater by Confederate sympathizer John Wilkes Booth. Lincoln died the next day as a result of his wounds.  

William McKinley was the last American president to have served in the Civil War. A lawyer and then Congressman from Ohio, McKinley was elected Governor of Ohio in 1891. McKinley was a staunch supporter of the gold standard. He was elected President in 1896 and again in 1900, and led the nation out of a deep economic depression. McKinley was shot on September 6, 1901, by Leon Czolgosz, a Polish American anarchist; he died eight days later. 

John F. Kennedy, son of the distinguished Joseph and Rose Kennedy, was a World War II hero and successful career politician. Elected to the office of President of the United States in 1960, he was the youngest person to ever hold the office and the only Roman Catholic. Kennedy's legacy includes management of the Cuban Missile Crisis, support for African American civil rights, and the ​initial speech and funding that eventually sent Americans to the moon. Kennedy was shot while in an open car on parade in Dallas on November 22, 1963, and died a few hours later.

mla apa chicago
Your Citation
Kelly, Martin. "Which Presidents Died While Serving in Office?" ThoughtCo, Feb. 16, 2021, thoughtco.com/presidents-who-died-while-serving-105448. Kelly, Martin. (2021, February 16). Which Presidents Died While Serving in Office? Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/presidents-who-died-while-serving-105448 Kelly, Martin. "Which Presidents Died While Serving in Office?" ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/presidents-who-died-while-serving-105448 (accessed June 5, 2023).