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Presidents Day: A new C-SPAN book recounts where they all end up

February 15, 2010 |  6:56 am

Abraham Lincoln with Union troops at the front

It's Presidents Day, a combined bargain birthday celebration since for unexplained reasons neither No. 1 George Washington nor No. 16 Abraham Lincoln deserve their own holiday off anymore.

Naturally, we turn to one of our nation's living treasures, C-SPAN. Historian Richard Norton Smith has done a new foreword for the updating of the cable network's classic book "Who's Buried in Grant's Tomb: A Tour of Presidential Gravesites" by C-SPAN founder Brian Lamb and the network's staff. Smith is scholar-in-residence at George Mason University and has been executive director of five presidential libraries.

The comprehensive guide, issued on Presidents Day, not coincidentally, is actually about the lives of the nation's chief executives as much as it is about their final resting places (unless Lincoln's body gets stolen again).

Here's a video of Smith talking about the new book:

And here's an intriguing historical insight Smith provides in the new book about the 1994 funeral of Richard M. Nixon in Southern California:

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 Gov. 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 hard-boiled 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.

Speaking of dead presidents, as a holiday bonus we'll add down below a video of the Nixon funeral showing just what Smith wrote about. (Executive Order: Scroll down.)

-- Andrew Malcolm

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Photo: Getty Images (the United States' first Republican and tallest president at 6 foot 4; Guess who was shortest? James Madison, No. 4, was a whole foot shorter than Abe).     Videos courtesy of C-SPAN.

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