Happy Birthday, Robert Todd Lincoln – Witness to Three Assassinated Presidents

Robert Todd LincolnRobert Todd Lincoln turns 169 years old today. Or he would have if he hadn’t died 87 years ago at the age of 82. A very ripe old age that was quite unusual for his family. Father Abraham Lincoln was, of course, assassinated in 1865 at the age of 56. Robert was born in 1843, the oldest of Abe and Mary Todd’s four sons. But Robert was not only the first to be born, he was the last to die, and the only Lincoln child to even reach adulthood.

Second born Eddie lived only three years, dying from tuberculosis. Then there was Willie, who died in the White House at age eleven. Thomas – Tad – managed to recover from the same sickness that took his brother Willie, only to see his father’s life taken a few years later. Tad made it to the age of 18 before dying of heart failure, perhaps from the strain of his mother’s fragile mental state after the trauma of her husband’s demise.

Robert went on to great accomplishments in his own right. He served as Secretary of War under President’s Garfield and Arthur, then minister to the United Kingdom under President Benjamin Harrison. He then went on to be legal counsel to the Pullman railroad car company, and eventually became its president.

But perhaps the most interesting factoid is that Robert was either present or nearby at three Presidential assassinations. The first was his father’s, where he was nearby and came to see his father’s last hours. Then while serving as his Secretary of War he witnessed the assassination of President Garfield at the Sixth Street train station. And if that wasn’t enough, Robert was present at the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York at the invitation of President William McKinley. McKinley was shot and killed. Robert is said to have refused any further presidential invitations after that, though I suspect Presidents also thought better about inviting him.

Robert was the only Lincoln son to have children, with the last drop of Lincoln lineage – “Bud” Beckwith, grandson to Robert – passing away in 1985.

Robert is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

More on Abraham Lincoln on my Lincoln page.

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5 thoughts on “Happy Birthday, Robert Todd Lincoln – Witness to Three Assassinated Presidents

  1. Thanks for this great article. It is quite unusual to be present/near three presidential assassinations.. He must be the only one in history!

    • Yes, it’s a safe bet that he is the only one close to three assassinated presidents, in part because most people don’t hang out with too many presidents. But seriously, if you were President, would you want to invite this guy to your next photo-op? I think not.

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