It was a surprise to everyone when Teddy Roosevelt died on this day in 1919. He was only 60 years old, but he’d had a bad year.
He died in his sleep, they say. “Colonel” Roosevelt (as they called him) had been sick and in the hospital for seven weeks with what they called inflammatory rheumatism. He was discharged on Christmas Day, 1918, and went home to his place in Oyster Bay on Long Island.
By all accounts he was in good health and spirits, but on the night of January 5, 1919, he had trouble breathing and a doctor was summoned around 11 o’clock. President Roosevelt recovered and went to bed feeling fine.
Around 4:00 a.m. he was found not breathing quite right by James Amos, described in the New York Times obituary as “an old negro servant of the family.” It was Amos who was witness to Roosevelt’s last words: “Please put out that light, James.”
By tbe time a doctor arrived, Roosevelt was dead. It’s believed a blood clot killed him, but it’s unclear as to whether the clot got to his lungs or his heart. That’s why some sources list his cause of death as “pulmonary embolism” and some as “coronary embolism.”
It marked the end of a rough year for Roosevelt, who’d had a serious infection in his leg and various other health problems. All his rough-housing was catching up to him. He’d broken several ribs over the years (falling off horses and such), he was deaf in one ear because of an infection, blind in one eye from a boxing match and he still carried a bullet in his body from a botched assassination attempt in 1912.
And perhaps even worse, his youngest son, Quentin, was killed in July of 1918 in airplane combat in France.
That was World War I. In fact, Roosevelt was hospitalized in November, just after the war ended.