The Stories Behind the Deaths of 39 American Presidents

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John F. Kennedy
> When he died: Nov. 22, 1963
> Age: 46
> Cause of death: Assassination (gunshot wound)

As the whole world knows, Kennedy was shot — apparently by Lee Harvey Oswald (though countless conspiracy theories have appeared over the years) — as he rode through downtown Dallas in a motorcade. He was rushed to the hospital unconscious and died half an hour later. Ironically, Nellie Connally, wife of Texas governor John Connally, had just said something to Kennedy along the lines of “You can’t say the people of Dallas don’t love you,” to which he replied “You certainly can’t” — seconds before he was shot.

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Herbert Hoover
> When he died: Oct. 20, 1964
> Age: 90
> Cause of death: Internal bleeding

Hoover was 90 when he died — the same age as John Adams, the only other president up to that point to reach his tenth decade. He had had intestinal issues, including a growth on his large intestine which was removed in 1962. When massive internal bleeding began, doctors treated him with transfusions, but, as the New York Times put it in their obituary, “[T]oxins poisoned his weakened system and, when bleeding recurred early yesterday, his heart could no longer take the strain.” No last words are recorded.

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Dwight D. Eisenhower
> When he died: March 28, 1969
> Age: 78
> Cause of death: Heart failure

Eisenhower, a smoker and drinker, had serious health problems as he aged, including two heart attacks, a mild stroke, Crohn’s disease, and an inflamed gallbladder. Congestive heart failure finally claimed his life. He is said to have announced, shortly before he died, “I want to go. God take me.”

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Harry S. Truman
> When he died: Dec. 26, 1972
> Age: 88
> Cause of death: Pneumonia, multiple organ failure

Though he never completely recovered from a fall at his house in 1964, Truman lasted another eight years, until he was admitted to the hospital with pneumonia. There, his vital organs began to fail and he went into a coma leading to his death. His last words are unknown.

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Lyndon B. Johnson
> When he died: Jan. 22, 1973
> Age: 64
> Cause of death: Heart failure

A lifetime heavy smoker, Johnson once told newscaster Walter Cronkite that as far as his cardiac health was concerned, it was better “to smoke than to be nervous.” Ten days later, in his bedroom, he had the heart attack that killed him. Before he lost consciousness, he called out “Send Mike immediately” — Mike Howard being one of his Secret Service agents. When Howard got to Johnson’s bedside, he was already dead.