IF you're wondering where John F. Kennedy was buried, you probably already know that John Fitzgerald Kennedy was the 35th President of the United States. He earned his election in 1961, becoming the youngest man ever to hold the title. Kennedy had spent just over a thousand days in office when he was assassinated in Dallas, Texas while traveling by motorcade.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- President John F. Kennedy’s Burial and Grave
- President Kennedy’s Funeral
- Other Memorials for President Kennedy
John F. Kennedy’s administration centered around civil rights for Americans and peace worldwide. His assassination was a shock to the nation, and his funeral was viewed by millions via satellite television.
President John F. Kennedy’s Burial and Grave
Following John F. Kennedy’s funeral Mass (see more about that below), the funeral procession took his body a short distance to the cemetery where he remains to this day.
John F. Kennedy is buried at Arlington National Cemetery, which is located near the White House, the Capitol, and the cathedral where John’s funeral took place. You can find the grave and the Kennedy Monument in Section 45 of the cemetery.
Arlington National Cemetery is the final resting place for many of America’s veterans and war heroes. But John F. Kennedy was only the second president to choose burial at Arlington. (The first was William H. Taft.)
Reportedly, just 11 days before his assassination, Kennedy visited Arlington National Cemetery to attend the Veteran’s Day Ceremonies there. It was only the second time he’d been to the landmark.
As he stood in front of Arlington House, looking out over the cemetery, Kennedy apparently told a park ranger, “I could stay here forever.” After his assassination, Jacqueline Kennedy chose to honor his wish by burying her husband at Arlington National Cemetery.
Kennedy’s permanent gravesite was designed by his long-time friend, architect John Carl Warnecke, and completed in 1967. The site measures 18 feet by 30 feet and is paved with Cape Cod granite stones. The stones were quarried over 150 years ago near President Kennedy’s home.
If you visit Kennedy’s grave, you’ll enter a plaza by way of a circular walkway. The plaza is enclosed by a low granite wall, inscribed with some of Kennedy’s famous quotes and speeches, including his Inaugural Address.
From the enclosed plaza, you’ll climb a short flight of steps up to a rectangular terrace where the gravesite sits. (A concealed pathway provides access in the back for persons with limited mobility.)
Each Kennedy who’s buried there, including JFK, has a simple, engraved slate headstone marking their final resting place.
At Jacqueline Kennedy’s request, the gravesite features an eternal flame as the “headstone” at the head of the President’s grave. An eternal flame is a torch that’s tended and kept lit for an indefinite period of time. Kennedy’s Eternal Flame is set into a five-foot, circular granite stone.
The United States Army Corps of Engineers built Kennedy’s eternal flame overnight, with limited time before the funeral. It’s a propane gas-fueled tiki torch, which they slightly modified for its installation at the center of the monument. The Corps also installed a gas line connected to a propane tank just 200 yards away from the torch.
First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy was reportedly inspired to include an eternal flame at her husband’s gravesite by other eternal flame sites. There’s an eternal flame that burns at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, as well as one at the Tomb of the Unknown in Arlington National Cemetery.
Where are Jacqueline and his children buried?
Initially, most people assumed the Kennedy family would bury John at Holyhood Cemetery in Brookline, Massachusetts. That’s where his son, Patrick Bouvier Kennedy was buried after passing away two days after his premature birth in 1963.
But following John F. Kennedy’s trip to Arlington National Cemetery just before his death, when John had admired the peaceful location, the family had a change of heart.
Patrick Bouvier’s body was subsequently moved to the Kennedy gravesite at Arlington. The Kennedys also had a stillborn daughter, who was moved to the new gravesite.
Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis joined John F. and the two infants at the Kennedy gravesite after her death in 1994.
John F. Kennedy’s brothers, Ted and Robert, are also buried near him at Arlington National Cemetery.
John F. Kennedy Jr., who died in 1999, chose to be cremated and have his ashes scattered at sea.
President Kennedy’s Funeral
John F. Kennedy’s state funeral took place in Washington, DC over the three days following his assassination on Friday, November 22, 1963.
Returning to Washington
After his death, John F. Kennedy’s body was brought back to Washington, DC from Texas in a bronze casket. A Washington, DC funeral home performed the embalming and cosmetic restoration, although the funeral would be closed-casket.
The funeral home placed Kennedy’s body in a mahogany casket and took it to the East Room of the White House. There, in the largest room of the Executive Mansion, Kennedy would lay in repose for 24 hours.
Lying in state at the Capitol
On Sunday, a historical horse-drawn carriage (the same one that had carried the body of Franklin D. Roosevelt) transported Kennedy’s body from the White House to the U.S. Capitol. There, the body would lay in state, giving the public the chance to pay respect to its beloved leader.
Throughout that day and night, hundreds of thousands of visitors arrived from across the nation to view the casket. Many waited in near-freezing temperatures for over 10 hours before reaching the front of the line.
On Monday at 9:00 AM, the viewing at the Capitol came to an end. The state funeral ceremony for John F. Kennedy was set to begin at 10:30 AM.
The Marine Band led a funeral procession to St. Mathew’s Roman Catholic Cathedral in Washington, DC An approximated one million people stood along the route of the procession as it made its way from the Capitol back to the White House, then to the cathedral, and later to Arlington Cemetery.
Jaqueline Kennedy walked at the head of the procession, marking the first time a first lady walked in her husband’s funeral procession. The rest of the Kennedy family waited at the cathedral.
Millions of more people watched the procession and funeral from home as it was broadcast on ABC, CBS, and NBC.
Kennedy’s funeral was attended by dignitaries, presidents, prime ministers, and royalty from around the globe.
All told, 220 foreign dignitaries from 92 different countries, as well as members of five international agencies and the papacy, were in attendance. Many of these dignitaries marched, relatively unnoticed, behind Mrs. Kennedy in the procession to the cathedral.
About 1,200 guests attended the funeral Mass, held at the cathedral where the Kennedys often worshiped. The First Lady requested a Pontifical Requiem Low Mass--a simplified version of the Requiem Mass.
There was no formal eulogy at the Mass, but Bishop Philip M. Hannan read a few selections from Kennedy’s speeches and writings. He also read a passage from Ecclesiastes and closed his remarks by reading the entirety of Kennedy’s Inaugural Address.
Additionally, at Jacqueline Kennedy’s request, Luigi Vena sang Ave Maria at the funeral as he had at the Kennedys’ marriage.
Other Memorials for President Kennedy
John F. Kennedy’s gravesite isn’t the only monument dedicated to his great works. Here’s a list of some of the memorials created to honor our 35th President:
- John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum (Dorchester, Massachusetts)
- John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts (Washington, DC)
- John Fitzgerald Federal Building (Government City, Boston)
- John F. Kennedy International Airport (New York City)
- John Fitzgerald Kennedy Memorial (Dallas, Texas)
- John Fitzgerald Kennedy Memorial (Portland, Oregon)
- John F. Kennedy Memorial (London)
- Yad Kennedy and John F. Kennedy Peace Forest (Israel)
In addition to these, there are countless streets named after John F. Kennedy, as well as schools nationwide which bear his name. Streets, schools, and even city names around the world memorialize John F. Kennedy, too.
Remembering John F. Kennedy
John F. Kennedy is one of America’s most beloved and remembered presidents. His funeral and his gravesite at Arlington National Cemetery provide only a glimpse into the love and respect he commanded.
If you visit Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, make sure to take some time out to visit John F. Kennedy’s gravesite. You’ll not only have the chance to pay your respects to someone who died serving his country, but you’ll look upon a historical monument that millions have visited over time.
- “JFK’s Body Moved to Permanent Site at Arlington.” Desert Sun, Volume 40, Number 191. 15 March 1967. cdnc.ucr.edu/?a=d&d=DS19670315.2.2&e=-------en--20--1--txt-txIN--------1
- Mossman, B.C. and Stark, M.W. “The last salute: civil and military funerals 1921-1969.” Department of the Army, Washington, DC 1991. history.army.mil/books/Last_Salute/Ch23.htm#t17
- “President Kennedy’s grave in Arlington National Cemetery.” John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum. www.jfklibrary.org/learn/about-jfk/life-of-john-f-kennedy/fast-facts-john-f-kennedy/president-kennedys-grave-in-arlington-national-cemetery