President Tafts's Obituary
page 1 of The New York Times, March 9, 1930]
[With grateful thanks to Michael
Elsner for transcription!]
EX PRESIDENT TAFT DIES AT CAPITAL
SUCCUMBING TO MANY WEEKS' ILLNESS,
FIVE HOURS AFTER JUSTICE SANFORD
END COMES AT 5:15 P. M.
Special to the New York Times
Washington, March 8.- William Howard Taft, the only man in the history of this country to have filled both the offices of the President and the Chief Justice of the United States, died at 5:15 o'clock this afternoon. He was in his seventy-third year.
Former Executive and Chief Justice Passes in Coma, Wife at Side.
HOOVER HASTENS TO HOME
President Proclaims 30 Days of Mourning for Nation-Military Funeral Planned.
BURIAL TO BE AT ARLINGTON
National Capital Is Saddened by Loss of Man Who Held the Country's Two Highest Honors
His death, which was caused by cerebro-arteriosclerosis, was preceded by that of Associate Justice Edward Terry Sanford at noon.
Today also was the eighty-ninth birthday anniversary of Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, oldest member of the Supreme Court.
The deaths of two of the occupants of the highest bench were peculiarly saddening to the capital. During the illness of Mr. Taft Justice Sanford had been an almost daily caller at his home.
The death of Justice Sanford was quite unexpected, occurring after his collapse in a dentist's office where he had had an ulcerated tooth extracted. Taken to his home in an ambulance, he succumbed to uremic poisoning.
President Hoover issued this evening a proclamation authorizing national mourning for thirty days for former President Taft.
Mr. Taft succumbed after a rally a week ago from what his physicians thought was certainly the last phase of his illness and this temporary recovery brought a false hope that he might linger possibly for months.
Hoover Hastens to Taft Home
President Hoover was on an automobile ride when his intimate friend passed away, and could not be notified until he returned to the White House at the same minute that Mrs. Manning was receiving the unexpected news. He immediately recalled his car and, with Mrs. Hoover, hurried to the Taft home.
During a brief stay, Mr. And Mrs. Hoover consoled Mrs. Taft and Mrs. Manning and repeated their offer of every facility of the White House to lighten the burden of the many arrangements which must be made under the cirmcumstances.
The President also places at Mrs. Taft's disposal the East Room of the White House for the funeral, but a request by Mr. Taft himself that the services be held from All Souls Unitarian Church on Sixteenth Street, of which the Rev. Ulysses Grant Baker Pierce is pastor, precluded either acceptance of this offer or a funeral in the Capitol, which had been considered a possibility.
The services tentatively have been set for Tuesday, but final arrangements await the arrival of the sons from Cincinnati, when a family conference will be held concerning the details.
Burial will be in Arlington Cemetery, in accordance with the request of the family, Mr. Taft having qualified for this honor both as a former Secretary of War and as former Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy while President.
Lapsed Into Unconsciousness
In the room with Justice Taft when the peaceful end came were Mrs. Taft, who had entered it about two minutes before, a nurse, and Dr. H. G. Fuller, who had responded to the nurse's hurried summons in the absence of Dr. Francis R. Hagner, Justice Taft's personal physician and friend for a quarter of a century.
Death came quietly, Mr. Taft sinking imperceptibly into unconsciousness, as he had done frequently during the past month, and while in it suffering stoppage of the functioning of his heart.
Immediately after his passing, Dr. Hagner and Dr. Thomas A. Clayton, who had been associated with Dr. Hagner in treating the former Chief Justice, arrived at the house.
They issued the following bulletin, the last of a long series to be disseminated through the White House:
The former Chief Justice died at 5:15 P. M. A sudden change in his conidtion occurred at 4:45 P. M. from which he failed to rally.
The former Chief Justice has had a less restful night and his condition is not quite as favorably as yesterday.
Mrs. Taft, who had known for some time that her husband could not recover, bore the shock with the same fortitude that she had displayed in daily attending to his comfort.
Mrs. Helen Taft Manning daughter of the jurist, was absent from the house when the death occurred. She returned home at 6:05 and immediately joined her mother in the home at 2215 Wyoming Avenue, the lower floor of which, banked with flowers sent by multitudes of friends bears witness to the affection in which Mr. Taft was held.
The two sons of the former Chief Justice, Robert and Charles Taft, were at their home in Cincinnati. Robert having returned there a few days ago when it appeared that death might be deferred by weeks or months. Both were notified immediately and caught a train which will bring them into Washington at 9:30 o'clock tomorrow morning.
Two surviving brothers of the former Chief Justice also were notified of his death and tonight are on their way here. Henry Taft was at Augusta, Ga. And Horace A. Taft at Watertown, Connecticut.
Burial With Military Honors
President Hoover designated Colonel Campbell Benjamin Hodges, his military aide, to place himself at the disposition of the Taft family in regards to arrangements for the burial at Arlington, at which full military honors will be accorded.
Returning to the White House, President Hoover immediately issued his proclamation of national mourning for thirty days, canceled all White House social engagements during that period and ordered that the flags on government building fly at half-staff.
This procedure is in accordance with precedent when a former President dies, although an exception was made to accord the same honors to the memory of Secretary James W. Good, who died recently. Vice President Charles Curtis is away from the city. He had canceled a week ago an engagement to speak at a dinner in Indianapolis tonight when Mr. Taft was expected to die momentarily, but had reaccepted when Mr. Taft's condition improved.
The word of Mr. Taft's death was relayed through Washington almost instantly.
First to appear at the house was Associate Justice Willis Vandevanter, who alighted from his car at 6:25 P. M. He was followed in quick succession by Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes, successor to Mr. Taft, and President and Mrs. Hoover. Soon a constant stream of automobiles brought persons at the house to leave their cards and expressions of sympathy. Another visitor was Bishop James E. Freeman of the Washington Cathedral, who characterized Mr. Taft as "the most loved man in a generation."
Whole Capital Saddened
The death of Mr. Taft cast a gloom over Washington. For more than a month a silence presaging the death had hovered over the neighborhood.
The blinds of the house had remained drawn and a policeman had patrolled the sidewalk to assure quiet. The district is a restricted one with little traffic, and the quietude of the house had been broken only by those friends who called at intervals to inquire as to Mr. Taft's condition.
Quartered in a house a few doors away and across the street have been newspaper men awaiting the latest physicians' bulletins or developments in the case.
This vigil was withdrawn yesterday morning when the last possibility of Mr. Taft's dying imminently appeared to have disappeared. When his death did occur it was not sent out to the world until half an hour later, after the physicians had prepared the bulletin which was issued through the White House.
Tonight, however, the air of foreboding had disappeared. The blinds on the ground floor of the house were raised and all the windows reflected the illumination of lights within, displaying the flowers which were sent as expressions of regard during the life of the recipient. Tomorrow they will be replaced by blooms which have a more solemn import.
While the visitors to the home were arriving and leaving, reporters surged over the sidewalks and photographers recorded pictorially the events surrounding the passing of an eminent figure.
The disseminating of necessary information was undertaken by the White House, the closed offices being opened and George Akerson, Secretary of the President, being summoned from the golf links to organize the work.
It was he who gave out the notice of funeral arrangements and made public the President's proclamation at the White House.
Last Days of Mr. Taft
The passing of Mr. Taft ended a tragic period in which all of Washington, and, for that matter, the United States maintained a vigil of waiting for inevitable death which has been compared only with the circumstances surrounding President Wilson's passing.
From the gloomy, rainy morning of Feb. 4, on which Mr. Taft, returning from Asheville, N. C. was lifted from his private car and borne in an automobile to his residence on Wyoming Avenue, the question has not been whether the eminent jurist would die but when he would sink finally into a period of unconsciousness from which he would not awaken.
The bulletins issued by his physicians, from the first one on that day, have contained frank statements that Mr. Taft was in a critical condition, but those friends of the patient who were in close touch with him realized that the most pessimistic reports were borne out in his condition.
Arterio-sclerosis is the scientific name for hardening of the arteries, a condition which gradually causes a slowing up of the circulation until at last it stops entirely. Myorcarditis is a weakening of the heart of the heart which is said to accompany the other ailment. In addition the former chief justice had suffered for many years from a painful organic complaint which had treated his life on many occasions.
The one mitigating factor in his last illness has been the fact that at no time has he been in pain. Neither the congenial spirit nor the famous smile were dimmed through his suffering. In his unconscious periods, which became more frequent and of greater duration during the last two weeks, his face seemed serene.
Wife Constantly at His Side
Most constant of those attending Mr. Taft was his wife, who for days at a time did not leave the house. Her care and unrelenting efforts to assure his comfort won frequent comment from all those in touch with the home.
While few visitors ever were admitted to the Taft home during this illness, Mr. Taft was constantly remembered by old friends who are among the most prominent persons in officialdom.
Justice Holmes, the oldest member of the Supreme Court, whose period of service antedates even Mr. Taft's occupancy of the Presidency, visited the house on several occasions, including the first rainy day, despite the fact that his own health has not been of the best.
Justice Harlan Stone, another member of the Supreme bench, who was an intimate friend of the former chief and a close neighbor, likewise visited the home repeatedly, and during the critical period of a week ago kept a servant posted at the Taft home to relay frequent news to him.
Visited Twice by Hoover
President Hoover, another intimate friend of Mr. Taft, paid two calls, marked with as much simplicity as the President is permitted to assume at the home of the former Chief Justice.
The first was on February 5, when accompanied by Mrs. Hoover, he found him sitting up in bed and chatted with him for several minutes. At that time the President and Mrs. Hoover offered every facility of the White House to lessen the burdens on the Taft household occasioned by the multiple inquiries and demands surrounding the illness of such a prominent personage.
One service which the White House has given daily since then has been the dissemination of the bulletins concerning Mr. Taft which were issued twice daily by his physicians.
The second visit by Mr. and Mrs. Hoover was paid on March 1, the President being accompanied also by his son, Alan Hoover. At neither time were photographers permitted to record the visit, although these watchers and reporters for press associations have been quartered in a house not far from the Taft home, continually on alert for the latest word.
Physician a Friend for 25 Years
Dr. Hagner's ministrations have been marked with more than professional care, for in Mr. Taft he loses a friend of more than twenty-five years' standing. For twenty years of that time they have also been associated as physician and patient.
It was on Dr. Hagner's advice that Mr. Taft took a leave of absence from the bench on January 6 to go to Garfield Hospital for treatment, following the weakening in his health as a result of attending the funeral of his brother, Charles P. Taft, at Cincinnati.
He left the hospital a week later and went to Asheville for recuperation in the place where he has resided on such vacations as were not spent at Three Rivers, Que.