Episode #64 - Famous Last Words

Clarence Darrow once said, "I have never killed anybody, but I have read many obituaries with delight!"

With that schadenfreude in mind, join us for a look at some of the funniest, poignant, and insightful last words spoken by famous, and infamous, people throughout history.

Last words allow us to catch a glimpse of the entire life that preceded it.

Hard to authenticate last words: witnesses distraught, or they are revised for posterity. For example:

“Tell them to go out and win one for the Gipper.”

This was never said on the death bed of “George Gip.” In fact, he was never known to his teammates as “the Gipper.”

Last Words—Famous People

“I’ve never felt better.” Douglas Fairbanks

“I wish I had drunk more champagne.” John Maynard Keynes

“Am I dying or is this my birthday?” Lady Astor (Churchill’s sparring partner).

“Don’t cut the ham too thin.” Fred Harvey, restaurateur, Harvey Houses across the west.

“That was a great game of golf, fellers.” Bing Crosby, just finished a round, fatal heart attack, 20 yards from the clubhouse

Berg, Morris (“Moe”) (1902-1972) American athlete, spy. Professional baseball player. Catcher for Boston Red Sox. Spied for U.S. during World War II. Died at age 70 of injuries sustained in a fall at his home. Last Words: “How did the Mets do today?” Spoken to his nurse.

“Goodbye, I’ll see you in heaven.” John D. Rockefeller, Sr. to Henry Ford, who replied, “You will if you get in.”

“I love your company, gentlemen, but I believe I must leave you to go to another world.” Adam Smith’s last words to his friends (on his gravesite in Edinburgh)

Hope, Leslie Townes (“Bob”) (1903-2003) British-born American comedian. Stage, screen, radio and television actor. Grew up in Cleveland, Ohio. Starred in popular radio and television programs. Won many awards including Emmy, Golden Globe, People’s Choice. Entertained American troops in World War II and subsequent conflicts. Died at age 100 at Toluca Lake, California.

Last Words: “Surprise me.” His response to his wife who asked where he wanted to be buried.

Last Words—Infamous People

“Well, folks, you’ll soon see a baked Appel.” George Appel, put to death, electric chair in 1928 for killing a NY policeman

Anastasia, Albert (1902-1957) American gangster. Executioner for Murder, Inc. Killed at age 55 in a gangland-style execution while sitting in a chair at the Park Sheraton Hotel barbershop in New York City.

Last Words: “A quick haircut.”

Burris, Gary (1956-1997) American murderer. Shot and killed a cab driver in Indianapolis in 1980. Executed at age 40 by lethal injection in Indiana.

Last Words: “Beam me up!”

Chubbuck, Christine (1944-1974) American television news reporter. Committed suicide by shooting herself in the head during a live telecast. Died 14 hours later at age 29 in a Sarasota, Florida, hospital.

Last Words: “In keeping with Channel 40’s policy of bringing you the latest in blood and guts, and in living color, we bring you another first, an attempted suicide.” Statement she read to viewers just before shooting herself.

Glass, Jimmy L. (1962?-1987) American murderer. Convicted of killing a couple in their home on Christmas Day. His case is notable in that he petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court claiming execution by electrocution is cruel and unusual punishment and a violation of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. The Court ruled 5 to 4 that electrocution was an acceptable form of execution. Glass was executed by electric chair in Louisiana at age 25.

Last Words: “I’d rather be fishing.” Spoken while he was sitting in the electric chair waiting to die.

Grasso, Thomas J. (1962?-1995) American murderer. Convicted of double murder. Executed at age 32 by lethal injection in Oklahoma.

Last Words: “I did not get my Spaghetti-O’s; I got spaghetti. I want the press to know this.”

Harris, Robert Alton (1953-1992) American murderer. Convicted of the murder of two teenage boys. When he died in San Quentin’s gas chamber in 1992, he was the first person to be executed in California since 1967.

Last Words: “You can be a king or a street sweeper, but everyone dances with the grim reaper.” Recorded by Warden Daniel Vasquez.

French, James D. (1936?-1966) American Murderer. Claimed his constitutional rights were violated because he was forced to wear prison clothes and was surrounded by prison guards during his trial. Murdered his cellmate. Executed by electrocution in Oklahoma.

Last Words: “How about this for a headline? French fries.”

Last Words from the Titanic

“We have been together for 40 years, and we will not separate now.” Ida Straus, refusing lifeboat on Titanic to stay with husband Isidor, NY Dept store magnate.

Astor, John Jacob, IV (1864-1912) American businessman. Great-grandson of John Jacob Astor I. Served in the Spanish-American War. Victim ofTitanic disaster. His pregnant wife Madeline survived. Eyewitness reported that Astor grabbed onto the sides of a raft. When his feet and hands froze he let go and drowned at age 47. Different

Last Words: “The ladies have to go first—Get into the lifeboat to please me—Good-bye, dearie. I’ll see you later.” Spoken to his wife Madeline.

Harris, Henry B. (1866-1912) American theatrical producer, theater owner and operator. Victim of Titanic disaster. Produced more than 60 shows on Broadway. On the Titanic, Harris went to the side of his wife before the lifeboat was lowered away. Upon hearing “Women first” shouted to him by one of the ship’s officers, Harris made his last known statement.

Last Words: “All right. Good-bye, my dear.” He hugged and kissed his wife goodbye then climbed back to the deck of the Titanic where he drowned.