Herbert Hoover's Obituary
page 1 of The New York Times, October 21, 1964]
[With grateful thanks to Michael
Elsner for transcription!]
Herbert Hoover Is Dead; Ex-President, 90, Served
Country in Varied Fields
By McCANDLISH PHILLIPS
Herbert Clark Hoover, former President of the United
States, died here yesterday at the age of 90.
Death came at 11:35 A.M. in his suite on the 31st
floor of the Waldorf Towers, following massive
internal bleeding that began Saturday. His two sons
were with him as he slipped into a deep coma that kept
his final hours free of pain.
Physicians and nurses had worked ceaselessly since he
was stricken to prolong his final days. They arrested
the bleeding in the upper intestinal tract and gave
him frequent transfusions.
But toxins poisoned his weakened system and, when
bleeding recurred early yesterday, his heart could no
longer take the strain. By 8 A.M., it was apparent
that his illness was terminal, as a medical bulletin
Credo of Individualism
Mr. Hoover, born in an Iowa village, the son of a
Quaker blacksmith, was an exponent of a credo of
personal initiative that he summed up as "rugged
individualism," and his life exemplified it.
His parents were poor and he was orphaned at 9, but he
amassed a fortune as a mine engineer and owner.
With the start of World War I, he directed the
evacuation of 200,000 Americans from Europe. It was
the first of a series of massive economic, evacuation
and food relief activities that spanned half a
century. He was Secretary of Commerce in the
Administrations of Harding and Coolidge and was
elected President on the Republican ticket in 1928.
Seen as Victim
The crash of the stock market on Oct. 29, 1929,
plunged the nation into its worst economic crisis in
history. His policies were attacked as insufficient to
spur economic revival. He was voted out of office in
1932 under the cloud of the Great Depression, called
the "Hoover Depression" by his opponents.
Some later judgments, however, have suggested that he
was the victim of events that coincided with his
tenure. And 30 years of public service, including
tasks for two Presidents after he left the White
House, restored him in the affections of millions.
At news of Mr. Hoover's death, President Johnson
proclaimed a 30-day mourning period and ordered the
flags lowered to half-staff at the White House and on
all Federal buildings and grounds in the nation, on
Navy vessels at sea and at embassies and military
At noon Sunday 21-gun salutes will be fired at
military installations. When the flags are lowered at
Retreat on Sunday, 50-gun rifle salutes will be fired.
Mayor Wagner ordered flags lowered on all public
buildings in the city for 30 days.
Today and tomorrow from 9 A.M. to 3 P.M. the public
will be admitted to the vast marble sanctuary of St.
Bartholomew's Episcopal Church to file past Mr.
Hoover's closed coffin. The church is on Park Avenue
at 50th Street, across from the Waldorf's north
To Lie in State
Friday morning, the coffin will be moved to Washington
in a railroad car. It will be carried by military
escort to the Capital Rotunda, where the body will lie
in state until Sunday morning. There the nation will
pay its final honor to Mr. Hoover.
The rotunda is the ceremonial center of state
funerals. Abraham Lincoln was the first to lie there,
in April, 1865. President Kennedy and Gen. Douglas
MacArthur were the most recent. The only former
President to rest there before Mr. Hoover was William
A memorial service, which President Johnson is
scheduled to attend, will be conducted in St.
Bartholomew's at 4:30 P.M. tomorrow by the Rev.
Terance J. Finlay, the rector. It will not be open to
Mr. Finlay sometimes visited the former President in
his suite. When Mrs. Hoover died, a similar, brief
service was held for her in St. Bartholomew's.
Mr. Hoover will be buried Sunday in West Branch, Iowa,
the village where he was born. There will be a brief,
simple ceremony called a Memorial Meeting for Worship,
at the West Branch Conservative Meeting of the Society
of Friends (Quakers), of which he was a lifetime
His body will rest in a grave, the site of which he
chose himself, on a grassy knoll overlooking the
two-room cottage in which he was born on Aug. 10,
Quakers do not hold religious "services," as such, but
"meetings" marked by an absence of ritual. Therefore
there will be only a brief graveside observance before
the coffin is lowered into the earth.
Mr. Hoover's wife, Lou Henry Hoover, who died in 1944
at the age of 70, is buried at Stanford University in
California, which both attended and which is the site
of the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and
Peace--but her body will be moved to the Iowa burial
plot beside her husband's on the grounds of the
Mr. Hoover was the 31st President of the United States
by most reckonings, though some held him to be the
30th. Grover Cleveland, who served two nonconsecutive
terms, was both the 22d and 24th President in the
accounting that lists Mr. Hoover as the 31st occupant
of the office.
Mr. Hoover's death leaves the nation with two living
former Presidents: Harry S. Truman, a Democrat, and
Dwight D. Eisenhower, a Republican.
Only one other President lived to be 90--John Adams,
the second President, a Federalist, who was 90 years
and 247 days old when he died on July 4, 1826 (the
same day that Thomas Jefferson, the third President,
died). Mr. Hoover was 90 years and 71 days old at
Mr. Hoover's values were rooted in uncomplicated
Quaker values of thrift, hard work and self-
dependence, and he deplored a departure from those
values in which he disparagingly termed "the century
of the common man."
Need for 'Uncommon' Men
He said the nation imperatively required "the
leadership of the uncommon man or woman." And he cited
his own life as proof of the validity of the American
dream of achievement by effort, not grant.
The first word of Mr. Hoover's death came in a terse,
handwritten note on Waldorf stationery from his
personal physician, Dr. Michael J. Lepore. It gave
only name, date and time. Its text: "President Hoover.
Oct. 20, 1964. Time: 11:35 A.M."
Neil MacNeil, an old friend and associate of Mr.
Hoover, immediately called a press conference on the
fourth floor of the hotel. He asked for a glass of
water before facing newsmen and cameras, and
commented, "I'm undergoing a little shock today."
Then, in a written statement, he declared: "A great
American has ended a brilliant career of service to
his fellow men. Above all, he was a humanitarian. He
fed more people and saved more lives than any other
man in history."
A medical bulletin had been issued at 8:30 A.M.,
signaling the end. Noting that Mr. Hoover had lapsed
into a coma, the bulletin said:
"Early this morning, bleeding from the upper
gastrointestinal tract recurred, placing an unbearable
burden upon his already strained vascular system. His
heart, which has borne up magnificently throughout the
illness, has begun to fail and its rhythm has become
"Renal [kidney] function is inadequate for the demands
of his system and toxic products are accumulating in
his blood stream. The emphasis in this terminal phase
of his illness is upon keeping him comfortable and
free of pain."
Mr. Hoover's two sons, Allan Henry and Herbert Jr.,
had joined him Sunday, and both were in his suite at
the time of death. Mr. Hoover also had six
Mr. Hoover had suffered four serious illnesses in the
last 26 months, and had been long confined to his
suite, in which he kept six secretaries busy answering
mail and compiling data for his many books, among
other tasks. In 1960, he wrote 55,952 letters with his
He had become very hard of hearing lately, and aides
and interviewers sometimes had to stand close and
"I'm used to being hollered at," he assured one
His mind remained alert, and he maintained a steady
interest in world affairs and sports until his final
He liked to reminisce about the old days, to watch
football on color television and to read the
newspapers or have them read to him.
Mr. Hoover was 54 years old when he took the oath of
office from Chief Justice William Howard Taft on March
4, 1929, with Calvin Coolidge, his immediate
predecessor, at his side.
He ran against Alfred E. Smith, the New York Governor
who was called the Happy Warrior, and was elected with
21 million popular votes to Governor Smith's 15
million, and an electoral margin of 444 to 87.
But four years later, with the nation in the grip of
the Depression, with millions out of work and hundreds
of thousands suffering cold and hunger and sometimes
living in shantytowns called "Hoovervilles," Mr.
Hoover ran against another New York Governor, Franklin
D. Roosevelt, and was overwhelmed by a blizzard of
22.8 million votes for the Democrat. Mr. Hoover got
15.7 million votes and received 59 electoral votes to
Mr. Roosevelt's 472.
After his 1932 defeat, Mr. Hoover resumed his role as
trustee of educational and scientific institutions,
writer of books and articles and chairman of the Boys'
Clubs of America.
Under President Truman and President Eisenhower, he
headed the Hoover Commission on the Organization of
the Executive Branch of Government.