Theodore Roosevelt
Burial Location Visited Vice President Grave #
Oyster Bay, New York August 15, 2004 5th Visited

Propelled to the White House via
assassination in 1901, forty-two-
year-old Theodore Roosevelt was
the youngest president in U.S.
history. He and his second wife,
Edith, are interred on Long Island
near their home, Sagamore Hill.

The Roosevelt burial plot was locked when
my family first arrived. Shortly afterward,
my mother arranged for the cemetery
caretaker to grant us access. Many thanks
to the late Nick LaBella for coming by with
the key on such short notice. Or, as his
hero TR would say, "Bully!"

* Fast Facts * *

- Second Lady: Edith Kermit Carow Roosevelt

  - Spouse: Alice Hathaway Lee Roosevelt (m. 1880-1884)
Edith Kermit Carow Roosevelt (m. 1886-1919)

- Political Party: Republican Party

- Term: 1901

- President: William McKinley

- Born: October 27, 1858

- Died: January 6, 1919

- Age: 60

- Cause of Death: Coronary Embolism

- Last Words: "James, will you please put out the light?"

 Cemetery: Youngs Memorial Cemetery, Oyster Bay, New York

- GPS Coordinates: 40°52'12.4"N 73°30'24.9"W

* Background on Theodore Roosevelt * *

* Born a member of New York’s upper crust in 1858, Theodore Roosevelt was a sickly child whose father instilled in him the necessity to improve his health through exercise and training. Teedie was tenacious in everything he did, and he worked diligently to enhance himself physically and mentally. He defied the odds placed upon his survival by reaching college age, at which point he enrolled at Harvard. Roosevelt graduated magna cum laude in 1880 and studied briefly at Columbia Law School before he ventured into politics. The Republican was just twenty-three years old when he became a New York Assemblyman in 1882, but he made an immediate impression. Allied with reform-minded Democratic governor Grover Cleveland, TR introduced bills aimed to stem government corruption and the spoils system. His actions sometimes rankled members of his own party, but Roosevelt could not be deterred from his crusade to do right by the people neither when he was in the state assembly nor as a civil service commissioner in Washington. Appointed to that post in 1889 by fellow Republican Benjamin Harrison, he was asked to stay on by Harrison's presidential successor, his old ally Cleveland, which he did until 1895. Roosevelt posited that he could end up president someday himself if he played his cards right, but he did not believe his civil service post would propel him there. TR returned to New York, where the mayor tasked him with reforming the police department as one of its commissioners. For the next few years he took nightly patrols to catch misbehaving officers, and he made a point to enforce the small laws -- laws that, when violated, some officers took bribes and looked the other way. Roosevelt felt these basic steps went a long way toward reforming the NYPD.

* After William McKinley was elected president in 1896, Roosevelt successfully lobbied the commander-in-chief to appoint him assistant secretary of the Navy. TR wrote an extensive history of the strenuous War of 1812 years prior, and he wanted to ensure the U.S. was better prepared for naval conflict heading into the twentieth century than it was in 1812. Enlarging the Navy also played into his imperialist view that the U.S. should use military power to annex islands such as Cuba and Hawaii, which were viewed as less developed and inferior from the prevailing white American perspective. Congress withheld the funding Roosevelt requested as long as it could, but its resistance crumbled under pressure from newspapers who played up the destruction of the USS Maine -- stationed in Cuba -- as an attack by the island’s reigning nation, Spain. After war was declared against Spain in April 1898, TR left his post and organized the 1st U.S. Cavalry Regiment, a diverse group nicknamed Roosevelt’s Rough Riders. The lieutenant colonel’s exploits leading his men up Kettle Hill and San Juan Hill to overtake them from the Spaniards were reported extensively in the press. The Spanish-American War lasted less than four months, and the public regarded Roosevelt as its most enduring hero. TR rose to such national prominence by the end of 1898 he was elected New York governor, and in 1900 he was selected to be McKinley's new running mate in the wake of Vice President Garret Hobart's death. While GOP rivals such as New York boss Thomas Platt embraced the idea, thinking it was akin to banishing the boat-rocker to the political wilderness, TR opposed it — the lone vote against him at the convention was his own. Yet once on the ticket he fully committed himself and campaigned rigorously until the election. Though he and McKinley were victorious, Roosevelt privately confided he believed his dream of being president was as good as dead. Yet just six months into TR’s “exile,” anarchist Leon Czolgosz assassinated McKinley and elevated the rough rider to his desired office. Roosevelt mourned McKinley, but was determined not to let the circumstances shroud his presidency or sense of duty. “It is a dreadful thing to come into the presidency this way, but it would be a far worse thing to be morbid about it," he characteristically asserted. "Here is the task and I've got to do it to the best of my ability, and that is all there is about it."

* When he was elevated to the presidency, Roosevelt maintained he would continue his slain conservative predecessor's agenda. Apart from the common theme of imperialism, however, it quickly became evident that TR was intent on carving out his own path with progressive policies and unconventional tactics. He asserted his beliefs to an objecting conservative, to whom the president proclaimed, "the Constitution was made for the people, not the people for the Constitution." Roosevelt was not afraid to stir up trouble if he thought he was morally justified, and he was intent on neither norms nor a strict interpretation of laws deter him. A month after his elevation to the highest office in the land, TR welcomed educator Booker T. Washington to dine with him and his family at the White House, making him the first African American to be extended such an invitation. Then in 1902, Roosevelt’s Justice Department invoked the Sherman Anti-Trust Act to break up Northern Securities on the grounds that it was restraining trade in the railroad industry. It was a shocking move – beyond the fact that the president’s late father was friends with the trust’s head, J. P. Morgan, many of Roosevelt’s fellow Republicans were laissez-faire supporters of big business. The case was decided in 1904 by the Supreme Court, with the ruling favoring the Federal Government and validating this extraordinary use of executive power.

This and other moves signified that, though TR was not opposed to large companies, he would advocate for government intervention and regulations to protect the American public. In 1902, he brokered an agreement with coal mine owners on behalf of their laborers, and in 1906 he signed the Meat Inspection Act and the Pure Food and Drug Act to ensure the food products were sent to market as advertised. TR did not shy from intervening in areas outside of industry, either. He broke Ulysses S. Grant’s record of 217 executive orders by issuing 1,081 of his own, many of which created bird sanctuaries, national monuments, national parks, and wildlife refuges to protect animals and natural resources from encroaching humans. On the international front, in 1903 Roosevelt's administration secured the rights to construct a canal through the isthmus of Panama, and in December 1906 TR became the first American to receive a Nobel Prize, which he was awarded for mediating a peaceful end to the Russo-Japanese War. In many ways, Roosevelt transformed the presidency to its most powerful position to that point in U.S. history, and he was one of the office’s most popular occupants due to his policies, gregariousness, and constant presence in the public eye. Yet he still believed in adhering to George Washington’s precedent of not serving more than eight years, and after he was elected in his own right in 1904, TR immediately proclaimed he would not seek the Republican nomination in 1908. He was succeeded by his secretary of war, William Howard Taft, in March 1909.

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Donald, Aida D. Lion in the White House. New York: Basic Books, 2007.

Lamb, Brian, and the C-SPAN Staff. Who's Buried in Grant's Tomb?: A Tour of Presidential Gravesites. New York: PublicAffairs, 2000. Reprinted. New York: PublicAffairs, 2003.

McGerr, Michael. "Theodore Roosevelt." In The Reader's Companion to the American Presidency, edited by Alan Brinkley and Davis Dyer, 288-303. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2000.

Morris, Edmund. Colonel Roosevelt. New York: Random House, 2010.

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