This week Public Affairs Press has reissued Who’s Buried In Grant’s Tomb?, a book edited by Brian Lamb and originally published in 2000 as a companion volume to the “American Presidents” series of programs that were, at that time, being first broadcast on C-SPAN. (In the decade since they’ve frequently been rerun, most often on C-SPAN3.)
The book, as you might guess from the title, concerns Presidential gravesites. Did you know that George Washington had such an intense fear of being buried alive that his will stipulated that he not be interred until at least three days after his death? Well, I didn’t either until I read this article about the book by Paul Bedard, the “Washington Whispers” columnist of US News magazine.
Bedard includes a lengthy excerpt from the new editions introduction by that pre-eminent Presidential historian Richard Norton Smith, who describes his work on the address delivered by then-Senator Bob Dole at President Nixon’s funeral at the Nixon Library in 1994:
“As one who had a hand in drafting Robert Dole’s eulogy for Nixon, delivered on April 27, 1994, I will go to my grave convinced that Richard Nixon hoped to influence the 1996 presidential race from his. In point of fact, Dole had been among the eulogists at Pat Nixon’s funeral the previous June, as was California governor Pete Wilson. Approximately 33 million Americans watched Nixon’s late afternoon burial in the lengthening shadow of his boyhood home. They saw a side of Bob Dole few would have predicted—except Nixon himself. For he knew that Dole’s feelings lay just below the surface, much closer than his hardboiled public image suggested. In designating him one of his Yorba Linda eulogists, Nixon anticipated the sob in Dole’s voice as he struggled to complete his tribute to the central figure in what the senator that day called the Age of Nixon. So authentic a display of grief was touching to all but the Nixon-haters in the vast audience. Moreover, by exhibiting his feelings so openly, Dole was, in effect, humanized in ways no other speech could have done. Which is exactly what Nixon intended, I believe, as he made his own funeral a showcase for his political heirs. Nixon was always a better campaign manager than candidate.”
Indeed, Dole’s eulogy was likely an important factor in reinforcing his status as a frontrunner in the 1996 election.