Burial sites are some of the best glimpses into the past that we have in modern-day. Visiting the grave of a historical or political leader is a powerful experience. For Americans, it’s considered a rite of passage to visit famous graves of past presidents and vice presidents during your travels. These graves are spread out throughout the country, each marking the impact of specific leaders throughout history.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- How Do We Choose Where US President and Vice Presidents are Buried?
- Where Notable US Presidents and Vice Presidents are Buried
While it might not sound conventional, visiting graves is at the foundation of the classic US travel bucket list. For history buffs and proud Americans, this is a great way to feel connected to the nation’s past. If you’ve ever wondered where former US presidents and vice presidents are buried, keep reading.
How Do We Choose Where US Presidents and Vice Presidents are Buried?
Unlike regular civilians, there is a strict process for determining where US presidents and vice presidents are buried. The final resting place of these leaders helps tell their story, whether they were a military leader or a supporter of education for all.
Throughout history, presidents have decided where they would most like to be buried. If they didn’t make any end-of-life plans for themselves, the decisions fall to direct family members like their spouse or children.
What types of places are presidents buried?
Most US presidents and vice presidents are buried in their hometowns or at an institution carrying their name. Many presidents’ names appear on University buildings, libraries, museums, and so on. For these presidents, it’s common for their family to lay them to rest at this location. Again, this is a way of telling the story of these presidents and their impact.
Additionally, some presidents are laid to rest at military cemeteries. In this case, they’d receive a military funeral. For example, two presidents can be found at Arlington National Cemetery. In addition, many family members of US presidents are found at Arlington National Cemetery.
Ultimately, most presidents choose to be buried within their home states. This is a reflection of Americans who exist both as state citizens and national citizens. For those from these specific states, having a president buried there is a source of pride. Each president and vice president is honored in a unique way, making their story concrete within US history.
Birthplace vs. burial place
There’s a lot of misunderstanding about the birthplace of US presidents in relation to their burial place. It’s important to first realize that the state we associate with a president might not be their actual birthplace. The most basic example of this is with Abraham Lincoln who is considered an Illinois native. In reality, he was born in Kentucky. There are many examples of this association vs. birthplace throughout history.
Only just over half of US presidents were both born and buried in the same state. Of those, six were returned to their native city for burial. Other presidents choose burials based on their relationship with the particular state and their residency. Overall, it’s clear that the burial spots of US presidents and vice presidents tell a story of how vast and diverse the nation is as well as how we choose to identify.
What about the First Ladies?
Another interesting question that comes up when thinking about the burial places of US presidents is where their wives are buried. For the most part, these wives outlive their husbands. Most choose to be buried at the final resting place of their spouse, pairing them alongside the legacy of each US president.
However, there are some unique outliers within this rule. For the two widowed First Ladies who remarried (Frances Cleveland Preston and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis), the answer is less clear. Both Frances Cleveland Preston and Jaqueline Kennedy Onassis chose to be buried alongside their first husbands, the U.S presidents. To this day, this continues to be the trend. Ultimately, each First Lady has her own choice of burial place, despite the trends of the past.
Where Notable US Presidents and Vice Presidents are Buried
If you’ve ever wondered where some of the most notable US Presidents and Vice Presidents are buried, we’ve compiled them onto one big list. As mentioned above, you’ll find most of these resting places in home states, at private residences, and at important places throughout the country. Have you visited any of these famous burial places?
- George Washington (1732 - 1799): Mount Vernon, Virginia
- John Adams (1735 - 1826): Quincy, Massachusetts
- Thomas Jefferson (1743 - 1826): Charlottesville, Virginia
- James Madison (1751 - 1831): Richmond, Virginia
- Andrew Jackson (1767 - 1848): The Hermitage, Nashville, Tennessee
- Martin Van Buren (1782 - 1862): Kinderhook, New York
- James Knox Polk (1795 - 1849): Nashville, Tennessee
- Millard Fillmore (1800 - 1869): Buffalo, New York
- James Buchanon (1791 - 1868): Lancaster, Pennsylvania
- Abraham Lincoln (1809 - 1865): Springfield, Illinois
- Ulysses Simpson Grant (1822 - 1885): New York, New York
- Theodore Roosevelt (1858 - 1919): Oyster Bay, New York. Read more about Theodore Roosevelt's burial.
- Wiliam Taft (1857 - 1930): Arlington National Cemetery, Virginia
- John Calvin Coolidge (1872 - 1933): Plymouth, Vermont
- Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1882 - 1945): Hyde Park, New York
- Harry S. Truman (1884 - 1972): Independence, Missouri
- Dwight David Eisenhower (1890 - 1969): Abilene, Kansas
- John Fitzgerald Kennedy (1917 - 1963): Arlington National Cemetery, Virginia. Read more about JFK's burial and gravesite.
- Lyndon Baines Johnson (1908 - 1973): Stonewall, Texas
- Richard Milhouse Nixon (1913 - 1994): Yorba Linda, California
- Ronald Wilson Reagon (1911 - 2004): Simi Valley, California
- George H. W. Bush (1924 - 2018): College Station, Texas
The Nation’s Most Noteworthy Graves
Throughout the world, gravesites are a way to learn more about the individual country. This is definitely true for the US where presidents and vice presidents all are laid to rest in a personal, unique way. Each grave tells a bit of the president’s story, sharing something about where they lived, their legacy, and their family.
Though it’s a myth that all American presidents are buried in their birthplace, it’s true that their final resting place is related to their personal history. Americans feel a deep connection to their states, and this is a unique part of the American story.
Since most people are unable to meet presidents in their lifetime, their resting places are a great way to bridge this gap between everyday people and the most well-known leaders. The next time you’re traveling through a new state, why not visit one of these graves above? They’re a national treasure in their own right. Honor their legacy while checking an important landmark off your travel bucket list.