President William Howard Taft Memorial Grave
President William Howard Taft (1857-1930), the 27th president of the United States, was the first president to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery, and one of only two presidents buried here. (The other is John F. Kennedy.) Taft is the only person to have served both as president of the United States (1909-1913) and as chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court (1921-1930).
After his death on March 8, 1930, Taft lay in state at the U.S. Capitol Rotunda for three days prior to his burial at Arlington. The Taft family selected a large plot in Section 30 of the cemetery, which at the time was relatively undeveloped. Taft requested a simple ceremony with no eulogies, insisting instead upon poetry by Wadsworth and Tennyson. His burial service, too, was simple, although an elaborate procession from the Capitol preceded it, with a funeral escort provided by the 3rd Infanty Regiment.
The president's widow, Helen Herron Taft (buried beside him on May 25, 1943), commissioned noted American sculptor James Earle Fraser to design the headstone. It was completed in 1932 at a cost of $10,000, paid for by the Taft family. Made from dark mahogany granite from Stony Creek, Connecticut, the 14-foot-tall monument resembles classical Greek designs and features gold-leafed inscriptions and a carved apex. Two granite benches flank the sides of the monument, and the cemetery later added a brick plaza and walkway to the site.
The Taft Monument is one of two known works by Fraser at Arlington National Cemetery. The other is the Robert Todd and Mary Harlan Lincoln Memorial Grave, nearby in Section 31. Fraser also designed sculptures for several landmark federal buildings in Washington, D.C., including the National Archives, the Supreme Court and the U.S. Treasury building, as well as the two heroic bronze equestrian statues at the entrance to Rock Creek and Potomac Parkway, northwest of Lincoln Memorial Circle.