On October 20, 1964, former President Herbert Hoover died in New York City at the age of ninety. A funeral would be held at St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church in New York City on October 22, and the following day his remains would be transported by train to Washington, D.C. His body would lay in state in the Capitol Rotunda until the morning of October 25. The State Funeral would end with President Hoover’s body being transported by airplane from Washington National Airport to Cedar Rapids, Iowa. From Cedar Rapids, a procession would carry him to his final resting place in West Branch, Iowa, his childhood home and location of the Hoover Presidential Library.
Hoover’s State Funeral would be pared down from other State Funerals, as Hoover was a Quaker and for that reason, there was not a 21-gun salute performed. Hoover’s legacy immediately after leaving office was viewed as a failure, having been president during the start of the Great Depression. Later in life Hoover rehabilitated his image, becoming a popular personality. Hoover served in special commissions under Republican and Democratic presidents. His popularity was such that an estimated 100,000 people lined the route of his funeral procession from Cedar Rapids to West Branch, while 75,000 attended the burial in West Branch.
While the 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment took the lead for events in Washington, D.C., an Old Guard veteran served as lead in the Iowa segments. Captain Neale Cosby was assigned to the ROTC program at the University of Iowa. Previously, CPT Cosby served as Platoon Leader of Tomb Guard Platoon, Honor Guard Company. At the request of the Military District of Washington, CPT Cosby served as Control Officer and escorted Hoover’s body from Cedar Falls to West Branch, along with the minister, Dr. D. Elton Trueblood.
The State Funeral for President Hoover was the third State Funeral to take place in the span of one year. President Kennedy had been killed in November 1963 and General of the Army Douglas MacArthur had died in April 1964. Despite the shock of the President Kennedy’s death, units had been drilling previously, anticipating the death of Hoover. Hoover even joked about his age and health, having been given prime speaking times at three consecutive Republican Presidential Conventions. Each time party officials thought it would be his last convention. Hoover joked in 1960 that, “Apparently, my last three good-byes didn’t take.” Hoover was alive at the time of the 1964 Republican Convention, but did not appear due to health concerns.
Special thanks to Neale Cosby for additional information and photos, and to Richard Azzaro for his insights.
Photos of the Washington, D.C. elements of the Hoover State Funeral:
Photos of the Iowa elements of the Hoover State Funeral (courtesy Neale Cosby):