President William Henry Harrison was the first president to die in office. He also had the unique distinction of only serving one month as president. The inauguration for the 68 year-old took place on March 4, 1841. It was a cold and windy day as the new president rode down Pennsylvania Avenue on his favorite horse. He wore no coat for the frosty occasion. With hat in hand as he waived to the crowds it provided little protection from the elements. President Harrison developed a severe cold a few days after being sworn in, which led to a high fever and delirium. He died on April 4th, one month to the day of his inauguration.
A Presidential Promise
President Harrison was sworn in as this nation’s ninth president on the outdoor platform on that chilly day. Part of his inauguration speech included his promise that he would only be a one-term president. Little did he know at the time that he would serve only one month as president. Or that he would be the first president to die in office.
First but not Last
Harrison’s death in office was followed by the following death of U.S. Presidents: In 1850 Zachary Taylor died of acute gastroenteritis. Abraham Lincoln was the first president to be assassinated while in office. John Wilkes Booth shot him on April 14, 1865. Sixteen years later on July 2, 1881 James A. Garfield was shot. He died two months later from his wounds on September 19, 1881. Nine years later President William McKinley was shot on September 6, 1901. Following three consecutive presidential assassinations Warren G. Harding suffered a heart attack and died in office on August 2, 1923. Twenty-Two years later on April 12, 1945 President Franklin D. Roosevelt died of a cerebral hemorrhage. The last president to die in office was John F. Kennedy who was assassinated on November 22, 1963.