How Many US Presidents Died While in Office?

Eight US presidents died while in office, as of 2013. From 1840 to 1960, every president who was elected in a year that ended with zero died while in office. This 20-year cycle of presidential deaths is often referred to as Tecumseh’s Curse because, according to legends, after the battle of Tippecanoe in 1811, Chief Tecumseh of the Shawnee tribe prophesied that every 20 years, the elected president would die, starting with William Henry Harrison. In 1840, Harrison died of pneumonia 30 days after being elected. Abraham Lincoln, elected in 1860; James Garfield, elected in 1880; William McKinley, elected in 1900; and John F. Kennedy, elected in 1960, were all assassinated while in office. Warren G. Harding and Franklin D. Roosevelt, elected in 1920 and 1940, respectively, died of natural causes in office. Zachary Taylor, elected in 1848, also died of natural causes.

More about US presidents:

  • Ronald Reagan, who was elected president in 1980, survived an assassination attempt, thus ending the curse, according to believers.
  • William Henry Harrison gave the longest inaugural speech, as of 2013. He spoke for one hour and 45 minutes, without wearing a coat or gloves. This is thought to have contributed to his death from pneumonia.
  • Two presidents, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, died on Independence Day in 1826.
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