How the Presidents Died; Answers to Correspondents

Article excerpt

QUESTION How many American Presidents met unusual deaths?

INCLUDING Bill Clinton, there have been 43 Presidents of the United States, eight of whom died in office.

Four Presidents were shot dead.

Of the remaining four, one died of pneumonia, one of a heart attack, another possibly of a heart attack but was rumoured to have been poisoned by his wife and another of a cerebral haemorrhage.

Of the four shot dead, John Kennedy (1961-1963) probably died instantly; Abraham Lincoln (1861-1865) survived until early the following morning; William McKinley (1897-1901) hung on for eight days; and James Garfield (1881) struggled on for 80 days.

The first President to die in office was William H. Harrison (1841) after just 32 days in the job, having caught a cold on the day of his inaugural address, the longest in history.

Nine years later, Zachary Taylor died of a gastrointestinal complication five days after drinking iced water and milk at a July 4 rally.

The Congressman who delivered the eulogy at Taylor's funeral, Abraham Lincoln, was the first President to die from a bullet wound. He was shot in front of his wife, Mary, by fanatical Confederate James Wilkes Booth, five days after the end of the Civil War (1861-1865).

The next President to die in office was also shot. James Garfield was murdered by Charles Guiteau, deranged lawyer.

He was followed to a premature Presidential grave 20 years later by William McKinley, gunned down by anarchist Leon Czolgosz.

Warren Harding (1921-1923) died in a hotel room in San Francisco on his way back to Washington DC to face allegations of corruption.

He had enjoyed a number of extramarital affairs, one allegedly resulting in the birth of a daughter to a woman 30 years his junior. The official cause of his death was stroke, but many Americans believed his wife, Florence, was so exasperated with his philandering that she poisoned him with the help of his doctor.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1933-1945) was the longest-serving President.

He suffered a fatal stroke on April 12, 1945, in the first year of his fourth term of office, just as World War II was drawing to a close.

John F. Kennedy (1961-1963), the youngest man to be elected to the Presidency and the only Roman Catholic, was the youngest to die in office.

His death in Dallas on November 22, 1963, was witnessed by many and filmed by an amateur cameraman, but no assassin was ever tried for his murder.

His alleged killer, Lee Harvey Oswald, was gunned down by Jack Ruby in a police station days after the President's death.

Ian R. Lowry MA, Reading.

QUESTION What exactly is a 'squeeze', a term used by Nigel Dempster? How did this expression originate?

THE Oxford English Dictionary shows the first use of the word 'squeeze' in the 16th century, with the same meaning it has today: to apply pressure.

Today's slang term 'squeeze' refers to a boyfriend or girlfriend, and stems from the earlier American slang 'the main squeeze', common in the Thirties. …