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.
Frequently Asked Questions
How many US Presidents have died while in office?
As of my knowledge cutoff in 2023, eight US Presidents have died while in office. Four of these presidents—Abraham Lincoln, James A. Garfield, William McKinley, and John F. Kennedy—were assassinated. The other four—William Henry Harrison, Zachary Taylor, Warren G. Harding, and Franklin D. Roosevelt—died of natural causes.
Which US President served the shortest term due to death in office?
William Henry Harrison served the shortest term as US President due to his death in office. He died on April 4, 1841, just 31 days after his inauguration, from pneumonia, making his the briefest presidency in American history.
Who was the most recent US President to die in office?
The most recent US President to die in office was John F. Kennedy. He was assassinated on November 22, 1963, in Dallas, Texas, during his first term as President. His death shocked the nation and led to significant historical and political consequences.
Have any US Presidents died of natural causes while in office in the 20th or 21st century?
Yes, in the 20th century, two US Presidents died of natural causes while in office. Warren G. Harding suffered a heart attack and passed away on August 2, 1923. Franklin D. Roosevelt died of a cerebral hemorrhage on April 12, 1945, during his fourth term. No President has died in office from natural causes in the 21st century.
What happens when a US President dies in office?
When a US President dies in office, the Vice President immediately takes the oath of office and becomes the new President of the United States. This is in accordance with the U.S. Constitution's 25th Amendment, which outlines the succession process and ensures a smooth transition of power. The Vice President serves as President for the remainder of the term.