Kurt's Historic Sites

William Howard Taft's Grave

William Howard Taft

Interment Location Visited Sequence in Graves I Have Visited
Arlington, VA June 11, 2004 7th President visited; 2nd Supreme Court Justice visited

Photographed November 9, 2021.

Multiple U.S. presidents are interred at the hallowed Arlington National Cemetery, as are numerous Supreme Court justices. The lone person to serve in both of those capacities, William Howard Taft, is buried at the end of a long cobblestone path in Section 30. The Taft plot is a short distance north of the Military Women’s Memorial that — along with the Lincoln Memorial on the other side — is a bookend to Memorial Drive, which stretches across the Potomac River from the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

The 27th president and 10th chief justice is laid to rest beside his wife, former First Lady Helen “Nellie” Taft, who is best remembered for the role she played in the introduction of Japanese cherry blossoms to the capital city. Figures of note buried in the Tafts’ vicinity include Secretary of War Robert Todd Lincoln, General Omar Bradley, Secretary of State Alexander Haig, and civil rights activist Medgar Evers. I first saw all the aforementioned graves — including those of President and Mrs. Taft — on subsequent pilgrimages to the cemetery as opposed to my premiere visit in summer 2003. On that initial stop my family limited itself to the Tomb of the Unknowns, a tour of Arlington House, and the burial sites of Bobby, Jacqueline, and John F. Kennedy. Even if my historical interests had been broader at the time, there was only so much walking my sister and I would have been up to at ages five and eight, respectively. Regardless, after learning the Tafts were included on the long list of the cemetery’s illustrious residents, I was able to return to Arlington and pay my respects a little over ten months later.

Photographed June 11, 2004.
Photographed November 9, 2021.

The Taft monument is carved of Stony Creek granite from Connecticut and designed by James Earle Frasier. Frasier’s other works include the statues of Alexander Hamilton and Albert Gallatin at the Treasury Department Building, the pediment of the National Archives, and the sculptures that flank the Supreme Court staircase. Having fallen down the grave hunting rabbit hole long ago, I visited Frasier’s own burial site in 2021.

President and Mrs. Taft’s exact resting places are marked with small, rectangular granite stones embedded in the ground in front of the monument. Their initials, W.H.T. and H.H.T., are carved into them.

Photographed November 9, 2021.

Fast Facts

Born: September 15, 1857 in Cincinnati, Ohio

Spouse: Helen Louise Herron Taft (m. 1886-1930)

Political Affiliation: Republican Party

Gubernatorial Tenure: 1901-1903, 1906

Served in Cabinet of: Theodore Roosevelt

Cabinet Position: Secretary of War (1904-1908)

Presidential Tenure: 1909-1913

Vice President: James S. Sherman (1909-1912)

Supreme Court Tenure: 1921-1930 (Chief Justice)

Nominated to Court by: Warren G. Harding

Died: March 8, 1930 in Washington, D.C.

Cause of Death: Heart Disease

Age: 72

Interment: Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia

"I hate to be at odds with Theodore Roosevelt, who made me President [...] and towards whom I shall always feel a heavy debt of gratitude on that account. But, of course, he made me President and not deputy, and I have to be President; and I do not recognize any obligation growing out of my previous relations to step aside for him and let him become a candidate for a third term [...]."
- William Howard Taft
February 15, 1912 in a letter to his younger brother, Horace, concerning the Republican Party nomination for the 1912 presidential election
Photographed February 3, 2024.

The Tafts lived in Washington’s Kalorama neighborhood at 2215 Wyoming Avenue NW during William’s tenure on the Supreme Court. It was in this dwelling that the former president died on March 8, 1930, with Mrs. Taft at his bedside. She continued to live at the house and died there herself in 1943. The building became the Embassy of Syria in 1945 and was “significantly altered to accommodate this function.” The U.S. closed the embassy in 2014 in response to the atrocities that Syrian president Bashar al-Assad’s regime committed against the Syrian people in the country’s civil war. This move occurred two years after the State Department expelled Syrian Charge d’Affaires Zuheir Jabbour, the nation’s highest-ranking diplomat in Washington, on the heels of the Syrian government’s massacre of 108 civilians in Houla.


Sources Consulted and Further Reading

Lurie, Jonathan. William Howard Taft: The Travails of a Progressive Conservative. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2011.

Picone, Louis L. The President is Dead! The Extraordinary Stories of the Presidential Deaths, Final Days, Burials, and Beyond. Rev. ed. New York: Skyhorse Publishing, 2020.

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