Honoring Heroes: Pay Your Respect at These Famous Graves at Arlington

Arlington National Cemetery welcomes over three million visitors each year. While the eternal flame at President Kennedy’s grave and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier are the main attractions, here are other notable graves to visit and pay your respects.

Located just across the Potomac River from the Lincoln Memorial and covering the equivalent of 472 American football fields, Arlington National Cemetery is the final resting place for over 400,000 people. Most are veterans from the Army, Air Force, Navy, or Marine Corps, but others include high-ranking officials, Medal of Honor recipients, famous actors, notable Americans, and their loved ones.

After visiting JFK’s eternal flame and witnessing the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, be sure to stop by these famous graves and pay your respects to the Americans who helped shape this country.

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Sage Advice: Visiting Arlington National Cemetery is free, but you will have to pay a small fee to board the shuttle bus. Because the cemetery spans more than 600 acres, I highly recommend the shuttle—not only because there’s a lot of ground to cover on foot, but also because the ride is narrated and provides information about the cemetery and the heroes buried there that you might otherwise miss. You can purchase tickets to the shuttle bus just inside the Arlington Cemetery entrance.

Jackie Kennedy Grave with Floral Wreath
Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

1. The Rest of the Kennedy Family Plot

Although she remarried after John F. Kennedy’s tragic death, Jacqueline Kennedy is forever a First Lady. Her final resting place is beside JFK, with their two children that died as infants, Arabella and Patrick, nearby.

JFK’s brothers, Robert and Edward Kennedy, also lie close. Bobby, assassinated in 1968, is marked by a simple cross. Ted, a longtime senator, passed in 2009. A memorial for their brother Joe, who died in WWII, completes the Kennedy Family plot.

Sage Advice:  While there are many signs directing visitors to the Kennedy graves and the Tomb of the Unknown Solider, the graves of other famous people buried at Arlington can be difficult to find. Use the Arlington National Cemetery app, ANC Explorer, to find a grave or other points of interest.

President William Howard Taft's Grave at Arlington National Cemetery

2. President Taft, the First President Interred at Arlington National Cemetery

While JFK’s gravesite may be one of the biggest draws to Arlington National Cemetery, he is not the only American president buried there. William Howard Taft, the 27th President and the first Chief Justice buried at Arlington, was laid to rest here in March 1930. He remains the only person in history to have served both roles.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg Grave at Arlington
Photo Credit: Sage Scott.

3. Several Supreme Court Justices are Buried at Arlington National Cemetery

In addition to Former President Taft, several other Supreme Court justices are buried at Arlington National Cemetery, including:

  • Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.: Retired at 90, the oldest justice in American history.
  • William O. Douglas: Served for over 36 years, the longest in history.
  • Hugo Black: Known for civil liberties advocacy but wrote the controversial Korematsu v. United States opinion which upheld the legality of the Japanese-American internment implemented by Roosevelt.
  • Potter Stewart: Retired in 1981 and replaced by Sandra Day O’Connor, the first female justice.
  • William J. Brennan: A first-generation American born to Irish immigrants known for progressive views and opposition to the death penalty.
  • Thurgood Marshall: The first African-American justice.
  • Harry Blackmun: Author of the Roe v. Wade opinion.
  • William Hubbs Rehnquist: Known as the Architect of the Conservative Court.
  • Ruth Bader Ginsburg: Noted for her gender equality and civil rights contributions.

4. Medgar Evers, World War II Veteran and Civil Rights Activist

Born in Mississippi in 1925, Medgar Evers was a World War II Army veteran who bravely fought in the Battle of Normandy in 1944. Returning home, Evers became a prominent civil rights activist, tirelessly working to eliminate segregation, enforce voting rights, and expand opportunities for African Americans.

His dedication made him a target, and tragically, he was assassinated by a white supremacist in his front yard in Jackson, Mississippi, just hours after President Kennedy’s civil rights speech. Evers’ grave at Arlington stands as a stark reminder of the fight for justice and equality. Visitors often leave tokens of respect, such as flowers and handwritten notes, honoring his legacy.

Audie Murphy Grave at Arlington National Cemetery

5. Audie L. Murphy, the Most Decorated American Soldier in History

Audie Murphy, the most decorated soldier in American history, was one of 12 children born to sharecroppers in Kingston, Texas. After losing both parents by 16, he enlisted in the Army with his sister’s help, joining just after his 17th birthday. 

During WWII, Murphy fought valiantly in North Africa, Italy, France, and Germany. He earned every American combat award for valor available at the time,  including three Purple Heart medals and the Medal of Honor.

After the war, he turned to acting, starring in over 40 movies and TV series, including To Hell and Back, based on his autobiography. Despite his fame, Murphy remained humble and became a vocal advocate for veterans suffering from PTSD.

6. Actors Buried at Arlington

In addition to Audie L. Murphy, there are several other famous actors buried at Arlington. They include:

  • Maureen O’Hara: Renowned for her fiery red hair and roles in classic films, O’Hara is buried next to her husband, veteran Navy aviator and retired Air Force Brigadier General Charles Blair.
  • Jackie Cooper: The first child actor to receive an Oscar nomination, Cooper served in the Navy during World War II.
  • Lee Marvin: Known for his tough-guy roles, Marvin was a decorated World War II veteran who often portrayed soldiers and lawmen on screen. 
  • Wayne Morris: A WWII naval pilot who became interested in flying while filming Flight Angels in 1940.

7. Exploring the Final Frontier, Astronauts Buried at Arlington National Cemetery

More than 20 astronauts are buried at Arlington National Cemetery including:

  • Astronauts from Apollo I. Before Apollo I’s planned launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida, in February 1967, the command module caught fire, asphyxiating the three astronauts inside. Two of the three astronauts, Gus Grissom and Roger Chaffee, are buried next to each other at Arlington National Cemetery.
  • Astronauts from the Space Shuttle Challenger. The Space Shuttle Challenger exploded shortly after take-off in January 1986, killing all seven crew members on board. Vietnam War fighter pilot and commander of the Space Shuttle Challenger, Dick Scobee, is buried directly across from the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Nearby is fellow Vietnam War veteran and Challenger pilot, Michael Smith.
  • Astronauts from the Space Shuttle Columbia. Michael Phillip Anderson, David M. Brown, and Laurel Blair Salton Clark, who perished when the Space Shuttle Columbia disintegrated upon re-entry in 2003 are buried near Dick Scobee.
  • John Glenn. Before becoming the first American to orbit the earth, Glenn was a distinguished fighter pilot in WWII, the Chinese Civil War, and the Korean War. Serving later as a US Senator, Glenn’s grave reflects his extraordinary life and contributions to space exploration and public service.

8. James Parks, the First Caretaker at Arlington National Cemetery

Born enslaved to Robert E. Lee’s family on the Arlington Estate in the mid-1800s, James Parks is the only civilian buried at Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors. Although he never donned a military uniform, he dug many of the first graves at Arlington and cared for the nation’s cemetery for more than 60 years.

Soldier Guarding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
Photo Credit: Sage Scott.

9. Daniel “Chappie” James, Jr., the First Black Four-Star General

Chappie James Jr. was the first African American four-star general. Raised in the segregated south, he attended Tuskegee University and trained African-American pilots during WWII. He flew combat missions in Korea and Vietnam and, in 1975, became the first African American promoted to four-star general. James died of a heart attack shortly after his 58th birthday. His wife of 36 years, Dorothy, is buried next to him.

Joe Louis's grave at Arlington.

10. Heavyweight Boxing Champion, Joe Louis

Boxing champion Joe Louis enlisted in the US Army while the reigning Heavyweight Champion of the World. He served in a segregated unit during WWII, fighting nearly 100 matches for over two million troops.

Despite a stellar career with 68 wins and only one loss, Louis faced financial troubles after retirement. He returned to the ring to settle his debts but never regained his former glory. Joe Louis died in 1981, and President Reagan waived the technical requirements to allow his burial at Arlington with full military honors. His tombstone at Arlington National Cemetery features a bas-relief of the champion and his nickname, The Brown Bomber.

11. Big-Band Bandleader, Glenn Miller

Big-band leader Glenn Miller’s remains were never found after he disappeared over the English Channel in 1944. However, since 1992, visitors can pay respects at his memorial headstone at Arlington. As a member of the armed forces who died on active duty, Miller was eligible for a memorial stone, which his daughter requested. The stone honors his contributions to music and his service during the war.

Pierre L'Enfant Grave at Arlington National Cemetery

12. French-Born Pierre L’Enfant, the Architect of Washington, DC

French-born Pierre L’Enfant, the architect who designed Washington, DC, is buried at Arlington overlooking the city he planned. After fighting in the American Revolutionary War, L’Enfant designed the nation’s capital. Drawing inspiration from the gardens of Versailles, he is the mastermind behind the Capital City’s grid pattern streets, US Capitol, White House, and National Mall.

Despite being dismissed from the project and dying in poverty, his contributions were later recognized, and he was reburied at Arlington in 1909. His grave near Arlington House offers a scenic view of Washington, DC, a fitting tribute to his visionary work.

13. Dr. Anita Newcomb McGee, Founder of the Army Nurse Corps

Dr. McGee, one of the few women physicians in DC in the 1890s, founded the Army Nurse Corps. Graduating from Columbian College (now George Washington University) in 1892, she organized 1,600 volunteer nurses for the Spanish-American War.

After the war, she wrote the Army Reorganization Act of 1901, establishing the Army Nurse Corps. At 75, she died of a cerebral hemorrhage and was buried with full military honors next to her father.

Silence and Respect Sign at JFK Gravesite at Arlington National Cemetery

Helpful Tips and Important Rules for Visiting Arlington National Cemetery

Here are a few helpful tips to help you plan your visit to Arlington National Cemetery. For a more complete list of recommendations, check out this article

  • To take the DC Metro to Arlington National Cemetery, use the blue line
  • Skip the line for the Arlington National Cemetery tram by purchasing tickets online
  • Plan on a lot of walking, often on hilly terrain, even with the guided tram tour
  • Be respectful! Arlington National Cemetery is the final resting place of 400,000 veterans, not a national park

Looking for more information to plan your Washington DC vacation? Check out my additional recommendations to help you plan your trip to Washington, DC, including what to see and do in Washington DC, the best places to stay in Washington DC, where to eat in Washington DC, and more!

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28 thoughts on “Honoring Heroes: Pay Your Respect at These Famous Graves at Arlington”

  1. Andy Spurlock

    One of the great heroes of WW2 was Navy dive bomber pilot Richard Halsey Best. Sunk 2 aircraft carriers in one day. His exploits were featured in the 2019 version of Midway (highly recommended). He was a good friend of mine in the last few years before his death. His grave is near the front entrance but is never mentioned in any articles on Arlington.

  2. Cheryl Historybuff

    What rules did President Reagan waive to allow Joe Louis to be buried at Arlington? Also, I have read a couple of great books about how this cemetery came to be. They are fascinating. I’d like to add, Robert Lincoln, son of the President, his wife and son are buried there as well. Robert’s son, Abraham II died of a carbuncle when the family was living in England.

  3. I am just a pharmacist who loves history. I flew to Washington, D.C. about 3 weeks after 9/11. I would arrive on Friday and take pics all day, then spend the night in Reagan International and get up Saturday morning and go till noon. I can honestly say that I was the only person in the airport that night. About midnight a guard woke me up, but allowed me to stay. I caught the Metro about 9 AM and saw an Army Officer in the train. I asked what he was doing in uniform so early on a Saturday morning. He told me that he was attending Lt. Gen. Timothy Maude’s funeral. He was the highest ranking soldier to die from an enemy (killed in Pentagon crash) since Korea. I asked if I could come too. He told me “sure”. The funeral lasted well over two hours and was so beautiful. I was concerned that the military wasn’t taking many photos. So using a new Sony that used a small floppy disk, I took over 350 pics (5-6 pics per disk). At home I transferred them to a CD. I wanted to send them to his wife and family. I didn’t know their address so I put it in an envelope and wrote ” To the widow and family of Lt. Gen. Timothy Maude, Pentagon, USA.” Several weeks later I received the most beautiful “Thank You” card from the family. Somehow I have lost my pics moving, but hopefully Mrs. Maude still has hers.
    Kenny B.

  4. Thank you for this article, I am in the planning stage of a family trip coming up March, 2023. Members of my family(including me) have been to Arlington in the past but stopped at the eternal flame, as knowledgeable of the vastness of the cemetery was daunting. This helps make it more ‘do-able’ and therefore memorable! I also appreciate the travel tips at the end of the article like which metro line ride and buying tram tickets online. These little details take up time to research, but since you have provided them, it leaves me more time (and less stress) to be present in the journey!

    1. I’m so glad you found the article to be helpful! March is such a lovely time to visit Washington, DC. Shoot me an email or message me on your favorite social platform if I can answer any questions as you continue to plan your trip!

  5. Just visited for the first time and I was in awe – the memories and feeling you get while walking through will never be forgotten.

  6. I have been there twice in my life. It is one of the most beautiful places in the U.S.. Watching the changing of the guard is something you will never forget. I just wish people would show respect and remove their hats during the ceremony Taking the tram system is a must. On my first visit with my mother, she refused to get off the tram at the Kennedy grave site. As a result we were the only ones left on the tram which meant we received a personal tour of Mr. Lee’s home. Maybe I should have not typed that story. When my sister and I went a couple of years ago, I got off the tram at the Kennedy site.

    1. I agree with you about visitors being more respectful. The folks literally throwing handfuls of coins at the Kennedy graves is just awful!

  7. Thank you is a good article on Audie Murphy. He would be 96 this year so is good!. Best wishes to all that are able to visit Arlington. Judith Cummings

    1. Thanks for your kind words! Yes, the amount of bravery and sacrifice that those buried at Arlington exhibited is truly humbling!

      1. Audie Murphy was the MOST decorated combat soldier in US History. Not “one” of the most decorated. You need to correct this false information. It’s not fair to that great man’s legacy.

        1. Point taken, Mia. Updating now with a source to cite to back up THE MOST and not one of the most. Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

  8. My Wife and I visited Arlington about 20 Years Ago on the Tour in the Open Wagens. I was Behind The Wall Of The J. Kennedy Eternal Flame, Changing Of the Guards, Etc. I asked a Tour Guide if Audie Murphy Murphy was Buried here. She Smiled and Said your leaning on his Fence. There was a Circled Fence maybe 4 Ft. High, 30 Feet in Diameter with Audie’s Worn out Headstone in the Middle under a Small tree. I could not believe my Eyes.
    I took Photos but over the Years lost them. Could you Please send me a Few Photos
    of That ? My dad was WW-2, Three Years Under Ole Blood & Guts. General Patton. Our Blood & His Guts. But ALL The GI’s Highly Respected Him. I was Army, 64-67. DMZ Korea, And The Nam. 1st Cav Division. The Shooting did not Stop In Korea Until 1985. “What a Hell Hole.” -40’s Winters, + 110 Summers, 100% Humidity. If the Gooks Did Not Get You, The Elements DID !! I Watch All of Audie’s Movies. A Great Actor. Dies in a Plane Crash ?? Thank you for Letting Me Write This Article. Hope to Hear from You, Thanks

  9. I’ve visited Arlington and it’s somber and beautiful all at the same time. I walked it and it’s very hilly, so the suggestion about the shuttle is great. Also the back story of how the cemetery came to be is incredible (and sad) as well.

  10. I had no idea that President Kennedy’s eternal flame and the Tomb of the Unknowns was here. On my list when I make it to Arlington.

  11. You don’t want to forget the memorial for the men and woman that died in the pentagon attack on 9/11/01. It is a trek to their memorial, but well worth the walk to honor their memory.

    1. You are absolutely right! (In fact, a dear family friend is honored on that memorial.) I am working on a separate post about the memorials to visit at Arlington National Cemetery, and it will be included in that piece. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts! <3

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