December 21, 2003
Although I had visited four presidential burial sites by the end of 2003, I had yet to decide to visit all of them. Then one December night, my father was watching television and came across a program that was being re-aired on C-SPAN about president graves. More specifically, it was a National Press Club discussion about the book Who's Buried in Grant's Tomb: A Tour of Presidential Gravesites, put out by C-SPAN founder and CEO Brian Lamb. Mr. Lamb led the discussion along with prominent presidential historian Richard Norton Smith, who significantly contributed to the book.
During the discussion, Mr. Lamb reminisced about a 1993 interview with Mr. Smith about George Washington, during which the historian began to tell his interviewer about his journey to the graves of the presidents. Intrigued, Mr. Lamb decided to take it upon himself to do the same, while also visiting the burial sites of vice presidents. At the time the discussion was recorded in March 2000, Mr. Lamb had seen every presidential and vice presidential burial site with two exceptions: Hubert Humphrey's in Minnesota, which he planned on visiting soon thereafter, and Nelson Rockefeller's. Lamb told the audience that he had written to Mrs. Rockefeller for permission to visit her husband's grave, located on the family estate, but was politely declined (inaccessibility to Rockefeller's grave has made it the Holy Grail of final resting places for vice presidential grave hunters).
For much of the program, Lamb and Smith discussed the deaths and graves of the then thirty-six deceased presidents, as well as the ins and outs of Who's Buried in Grant's Tomb. Later, after the book discussion was over, my father told me about the duo's quests to visit every presidential burial site. At nine years old, I looked up at my father and asked "Can we do that?" After he questioned what I meant, I replied, "Visit every presidential burial site?"
And with that, my quest to visit every presidential burial site officially began.
Later that evening, my father went on the computer looking for more information about the graves of the commanders-in-chief. Where were they all buried? How far away were they from each other? Before long he found the website of someone named Dave who, like Mr. Lamb and Mr. Smith, had visited every presidential gravesite. Even though it was past my bedtime, my father called up to me to tell me about his discovery, and I rushed downstairs. We spent quite a while on Dave's website, where I saw images of most president graves for the first time. I noticed that some were outstanding and unique like Abraham Lincoln's towering tomb, while those belonging to Theodore Roosevelt and Calvin Coolidge were more modest. That did not matter though; each one was equally exciting to me at that moment.
Bringing everything full circle, in August 2015 I was interviewed by Brian Lamb on his program Q & A. We discussed at length my trips to president graves and also vice president graves, as I officially incorporated vice presidents into my quest in 2009. Among discussion points was my account of how I gained access to the highly coveted burial site of Vice President Rockefeller. During the interview, for the first time I watched a clip of the 1993 discussion with Richard Norton Smith that started the chain reaction of events which led to my undertaking of this quest. Watch a video promo for my interview below: