The Famous Last Words of Iconic American Legends

Death has a way of capturing the attention of those lucky enough to still be alive. Perhaps it is the assumption that in those final moments, right before the end, the dying may shed some light on what’s to come. For generations, the last words of the dying have been recorded for posterity. Can anything be gleaned from the dying? The Art of Manliness thinks so, and they’re working on an evolving list of “Famous Last Words.”

“Over the years,” they write, “we’ve compiled a couple collections of last words…. [These] words and phrases offer a man the chance to contemplate what he’d say himself right before taking his last mortal breath.”

Jefferson, somewhat symbolically, passed on July 4, 1826. It seems like he was waiting for the date.

Most of the iconic gunslingers of Holliday’s era died violent deaths. Holliday “died in a hotel bed from tuberculosis. These last words were uttered after seeing his feet with boots off,” TAoM notes.

Some of the quotes, like this one, seem a bit too perfect. Hitchcock, though, was known for his wit and he may have kept that up until the end?

Dimaggio had his priorities straight.

“Patton died in 1945, right before leaving Europe,” TAoM writes. “He was in a car accident en route to a hunting excursion that left him paralyzed from the neck down. He lingered in a hospital in spinal traction for 12 days; twas not the kind of glorious death the lifetime soldier had imagined for himself.”

Crowfoot seems to have kept his spirit of defiance up until the end.

“Coy, a convicted criminal, was shot while trying to escape Alcatraz prison (known as “The Rock”),” TAoM notes. “In response to his generals asking the heir-less Alexander which one of them would get control of the empire.”

Kit Carson was a tracker and soldier who knew New Mexico well. He’s talking about real chili, too, not the goop we slop on hot dogs.

Flynn seemed happy enough, even at the end.

Ford’s last words sound like the frustrated demands of a great director.

“During the War of 1812, Lawrence’s ship, the USS Chesapeake engaged in battle with the Royal Navy’s HMS Shannon,” TAoM writes. “The captain was mortally wounded with small arms fire, but encouraged his men to keep up the fight. His orders became a popular Naval battle cry.”

“The 80-year-old Corey was accused of witchcraft during the 1692 Salem trials, but he refused to enter a plea to the court. As punishment, he was laid naked in a pit in a field, and slowly pressed to death over two days. Heavy rocks were gradually placed upon his chest, but he refused to cry out in pain, or enter a plea, and each time he was asked to do so, he simply replied: ‘More weight’.” Was he a witch? Probably not. He was, however, tough.

Sitting Bull was an important leader for his people. His motivations seem to have remained central until the end.

For all eternity. We hope Sarah shared those sentiments.

Cleveland’s last words have a curious slant to them. Did he do the right, or was he displeased with his ability to do the right, even though his heart was in the right place?

“During the Battle of Guadalcanal, Private Ahrens was mortally wounded while single-handedly fighting back a group of Japanese soldiers attempting to infiltrate Allied lines. After his superior officer discovered Ahrens the next morning surrounded by dead Japanese troops, he whispered these words and died.”

Thoreau’s last words are hopeful. What was it he was seeing at the end?

Some last words seem somewhat contrived. Eisenhower’s, for example, cover a lot of ground.

No matter what he advised, lots of folks grieved.

Some last words weren’t given by those who were in the act of dying, but those about to be killed. They seem somewhat more impressive when they pack a punch.

It works on so many levels.

Perhaps this is the takeaway. Don’t die, but if you have to, don’t be afraid to go.