ON AIR NOW

LISTEN NOW

Weather

cloudy-day
64°
Cloudy
H 71° L 63°
  • cloudy-day
    64°
    Current Conditions
    Cloudy. H 71° L 63°
  • cloudy-day
    75°
    Afternoon
    Cloudy. H 71° L 63°
  • partly-cloudy-tstorms-day
    69°
    Evening
    Sct Thunderstorms. H 75° L 63°
LISTEN
PAUSE
ERROR

The latest top stories

00:00 | 00:00

LISTEN
PAUSE
ERROR

The latest traffic report

00:00 | 00:00

LISTEN
PAUSE
ERROR

The latest forecast

00:00 | 00:00

National
Letters to grieving families are a presidential tradition. Here are some famous ones.
Close

Letters to grieving families are a presidential tradition. Here are some famous ones.

Letters to grieving families are a presidential tradition. Here are some famous ones.
Photo Credit: Encyclopaedia Britannica/UIG/Getty Images/Universal Images Group
Allan Pinkerton, President Abraham Lincoln, and General John A. McClernand at Antietam, Maryland, October 1862.

Letters to grieving families are a presidential tradition. Here are some famous ones.

By any measure, it’s one of the toughest jobs a president can have -- writing to the family of a soldier killed in action.

The issue of presidential condolences has come to the forefront in the past week as  President Donald Trump incorrectly claimed that his predecessor, former President Barack Obama, failed to write letters of condolence to the families of slain soldiers.

While Trump has not backed down from the claim, he has found himself being accused of indifference by the family of an Army sergeant killed in Niger two weeks ago.

According to the mother of La David Johnson, President Donald Trump showed “disrespect” to his loved ones by saying that the solider “knew what he signed up for” before he was killed in action.

The president has denied saying that, while Rep. Frederica Wilson, (D-Florida), said she was in the car when the president spoke toJohnson’s widow as they went to the airport to receive Johnson’s body.

Letters from Commanders-in-Chief to the families of those who are killed in war is not new. 

Perhaps one of the most famous condolence letters sent by a president was a letter sent by President Abraham Lincoln to Lydia Bixby, a widow whose five sons served in the Civil War.

While the letter has been often quoted, the facts of. Bixby’s story has been questioned. It’s believed that at least two of Bixby’s sons were captured during the war, one deserted and one was killed.

Lincoln did not know that when the letter was written. Some believe it may not have even been written by Lincoln, but, nevertheless attributed to him.

Here is that letter and a few others sent by presidents to grieving families.

Lincoln’s letter to Lydia Bixby:
Executive Mansion, Washington, Nov. 21, 1864
Dear Madam,
I have been shown in the files of the War Department a statement of the Adjutant-General of Massachusetts, that you are the mother of five sons who have died gloriously on the field of battle.
I feel how weak and fruitless must be any words of mine which should attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming. But I cannot refrain from tendering to you the consolation that may be found in the thanks of the Republic they died to save.
I pray that our Heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement, and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours, to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of Freedom. Yours, very sincerely and respectfully,
Abraham Lincoln

Another letter from President Lincoln to the parents of a man killed in the Civil War:
My dear Sir and Madam, In the untimely loss of your noble son, our affliction here, is scarcely less than your own.
So much of promised usefulness to one's country, and of bright hopes for one's self and friends, have rarely been so suddenly dashed, as in his fall. In size, in years, and in youthful appearance, a boy only, his power to command men, was surpassingly great. This power, combined with a fine intellect, an indomitable energy, and a taste altogether military, constituted in him, as seemed to me, the best natural talent, in that department, I ever knew.
And yet he was singularly modest and deferential in social intercourse.
My acquaintance with him began less than two years ago; yet through the latter half of the intervening period, it was as intimate as the disparity of our ages, and my engrossing engagements, would permit.
To me, he appeared to have no indulgences or pastimes; and I never heard him utter a profane, or intemperate word. What was conclusive of his good heart, he never forgot his parents. The honors he labored for so laudably, and, in the sad end, so gallantly gave his life, he meant for them, no less than for himself.
In the hope that it may be no intrusion upon the sacredness of your sorrow, I have ventured to address you this tribute to the memory of my young friend, and your brave and early fallen child.
May God give you that consolation which is beyond all earthly power. Sincerely your friend in a common affliction --
A. Lincoln

From President Lyndon Johnson to the parents of astronaut Gus Grissom:
Men of your son's utter dedication to country and cause are rare. The loss of such a man is humanity's loss.
On each of the happy occasions when I met with Gus, I was impressed by the strength of his spirit and his cool confidence in the success of our space program. He was a leader who shared his strength and faith with all who knew him. By his courage, skill and dedication, he has guaranteed future generations a knowledge of the universe that will enrich their lives on earth.
Your sacrifice is beyond measure. But I hope you can take some comfort from your knowledge that your pride can be without limit. 
Mrs. Johnson and I mourn with you as we pray for God's blessing. Millions share our debt to you for giving Gus to man, and inspiration to mankind.
Lyndon Johnson

From President Richard Nixon to the parents of a young man killed in the Vietnam War:
Dear Mr. and Mrs. Cummins:
It is with great sorrow that I have learned of the death of your son, Specialist Five Richard L. Cummins.
Of all the hardships of war, the cruelest are the losses of men such as your son. The only consolation I can offer is the profound respect of the nation he died to serve, and the humble recognition of a sacrifice no man can measure and no words can describe. Those who give their own lives to make the freedom of others possible live forever in honor.
Mrs. Nixon joins me in extending our own sympathy and in expressing the sympathy of a saddened nation. You will be in our prayers and in our hearts.
Sincerely,
Richard Nixon
From Richard Nixon to Jacqueline Kennedy on the assassination of President John F. Kennedy:
Dear Jackie,
In this tragic hour, Pat and I want you to know that our thoughts and prayers are with you.
While the hand of fate made Jack and me political opponents I always cherished the fact that we were personal friends from the time we came to the Congress together in 1947. That friendship evidenced itself in many ways including the invitation we received to attend your wedding.
Nothing I could say now could add to the splendid tributes which have come from throughout the world to him.
But I want you to know that the nation will also be forever grateful for your service as First Lady. You brought to the White House charm, beauty and elegance as the official hostess of America, and the mystique of the young in heart which was uniquely yours made an indelible impression on the American consciousness.
If in the days ahead we could be helpful in any way we shall be honored to be at your command.
Sincerely,
Dick Nixon 

Several weeks later, the former First Lady responded to Nixon’s letter. 
(Punctuation, phrasing, and spelling is as it was in Kennedy’s original handwritten letter.)
Dear Mr. Vice President –
I do thank you for your most thoughtful letter –
You two young men – colleagues in Congress – adversaries in 1960 – and now look what has happened – Whoever thought such a hideous thing could happen in this country –
I know how you must feel – so long on the path – so closely missing the greatest prize – and now for you, all the question comes up again – and you must commit all you and your family’s hopes and efforts again – Just one thing I would say to you –if it does not work out as you have hoped for so long – please be consoled by what you already have – your life and your family –
We never value life enough when we have it – and I would not have had Jack live his life any other way – thought I know his death could have been prevented, and I will never cease to torture myself with that –
But if you do not win – please think of all that you have – With my appreciation – and my regards to your family. I hope your daughters love Chapin School as much as I did – 
Sincerely
Jacqueline Kennedy

From President George W. Bush to the brother of a man killed in combat:
Dear Thad:
Johnnie Yellock passed along the copy of your book, My Brother In Arms. It looks like a moving tribute to your brother, Senior Airman Mark Andrew Forester, USAF. I appreciate your thoughtfulness and kind inscription.
I know you miss your brother dearly, and I wish there was something I could do to heal your broken heart. Mark's noble service in the United States Air Force helped preserve the security of our homeland and defend the liberties America holds dear. Our Nation will not forget Mark's selfless sacrifice and dedication in our efforts to make the world more peaceful and more free. We will forever honor his memory.
Laura and I send our respect and appreciation. May God bless you and your family.
Sincerely,
George W. Bush

From President Barack Obama:
I was deeply saddened to learn of the loss of your son, Chief Petty Officer Nicholas H. Hull, USN, and it was a solemn honor to join in saluting him as he returned home to his final resting place. Our Nation will not forget his sacrifice and we can never repay our debt to your family.
A simple letter cannot erase the pain of losing a child, but I hope you take solace in knowing that his brave service exceeded all measures of selflessness and devotion to this country. We pay tribute to him not only as a guardian of our liberty but also as the true embodiment of America’s spirit of service to a cause greater than ourselves.
Michelle and I offer our heartfelt sympathy and pray that God’s grace gives you comfort as you grieve. In life, you son was a shining example of all that is the best in our land. In rest, may he find the peace we all seek.
Sincerely,
Barack Obama

Read More
VIEW COMMENTS

There are no comments yet. Be the first to post your thoughts. or Register.

The Latest News Headlines

  • Charles Manson’s infamous “family” numbered around 100 people in 1969, when Manson orchestrated a series of murders in Los Angeles that, over two nights, left seven people dead.  Nearly five decades later, the names of only a few family members are remembered, mostly due to the grisly nature of the crimes for which they were convicted. >> Read more trending news Here’s where the most notorious Manson family members are now: Charles Manson Manson, 83, died Sunday night at a hospital in Bakersfield, California. He was taken there last week for treatment of an undisclosed illness from the California State Prison at Corcoran, where he was serving a life sentence. Manson, along with several of his followers, was convicted of multiple counts of murder for the Aug. 9, 1969, killings of actress Sharon Tate, celebrity hairstylist Jay Sebring, coffee heiress Abigail Folger, her partner Wojciech Frykowski and Steven Parent, as well as the Aug. 10, 1969, murders of Leno and Rosemary LaBianca.  Manson was also convicted of the unrelated murders of music teacher Gary Hinman and stuntman Donald “Shorty” Shea.  Though Manson was not present for the Tate-LaBianca homicides, he was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to death. That sentence was commuted to life in prison in 1972, when the California Supreme Court ruled the death penalty was unconstitutional.  According to the Los Angeles Times, Manson’s stay in prison was not a peaceful one. He racked up hundreds of infractions and over the years was denied parole 12 times.  His next parole hearing was scheduled for 2027, the Times said.  Susan Atkins Susan Atkins, who was 21 at the time of the crimes, died of brain cancer at the Central California Women’s Facility at Chowchilla in September 2009, just a week shy of 40 years after her conviction. The longest-serving female inmate in California, she was denied compassionate release by the state parole board. Described by a former prosecutor as the “scariest of the Manson girls,” Atkins played a large role in the murders, particularly that of Sharon Tate, who was nearly nine months pregnant when she was killed. The Times reported that Atkins confessed to stabbing Tate to death as the young actress pleaded for her life and that of her unborn son. “Woman, I have no mercy for you,” Atkins testified she told Tate.  Atkins also participated in the LaBianca murders the following night.  The Manson family became suspects in the murders, in part, due to Atkins’ confession to cellmates while she was jailed on unrelated charges.  Atkins, who embraced Christianity while incarcerated, married twice while behind bars, the Times said. Despite prison staff advocating for her release as far back as 2005, Atkins was denied parole 13 times before she died.  Charles “Tex” Watson Tex Watson, 71, is imprisoned at Mule Creek Prison, where he is an ordained minister, the Times reported. A model prisoner, he works as a janitor at the facility.  Watson, who described his position in the family as Manson’s “right-hand man,” was the Manson-appointed leader at both the Tate and LaBianca murder scenes. According to testimony in the murder trial, Watson shot Parent, Sebring and Frykowski, who was also pistol-whipped. He also inflicted some of the stab wounds on the victims in the Tate murders. Manson also put Watson in charge the next night at the LaBianca house, where he killed Leno LaBianca and participated in the slaying of Rosemary LaBianca. Watson, who was married and divorced in prison, and fathered four children, has his own ministry, Abounding Love. His website, run by an administrator outside of the prison, states that he “testifies that anyone can be forgiven and transformed by Christ, even a former member of the Manson family.” Watson has been denied parole 17 times, most recently in October.  Leslie Van Houten Leslie Van Houten, 68, remains jailed at the California Institution for Women at Corona, where she has spent her entire sentence as a model prisoner, the Times said. She was convicted of murder and conspiracy in 1978, following her third trial on the charges. A former homecoming princess and the youngest of Manson’s followers, Van Houten held Rosemary LaBianca down as Tex Watson and Patricia Krenwinkel stabbed her to death. Testimony at trial indicated that Van Houten also stabbed the victim, but did so after she was already dead.  Van Houten once told a parole board she was “deeply ashamed” of her role in the slayings, the Times reported.  “I take very seriously not just the murders, but what made me make myself available to someone like Manson,” she said.  The state parole board recommended Van Houten for parole in April after 19 previous tries, but California Gov. Jerry Brown reversed the decision.  The parole board again recommended her for parole in September, and Van Houten is awaiting Brown’s response, the Times said. Patricia Krenwinkel Patricia Krenwinkel, who became the longest-serving female inmate in California upon Susan Atkins’ death, remains at the California Institution for Women at Corona, where she works in the prison’s rehabilitative programs, the Times said. She has condemned Manson in the years since the murders. “What a coward that I found myself to be when I look at the situation,” Krenwinkel told the New York Times in 2014. “The thing I try to remember sometimes is that what I am today is not what I was at 19.” Krenwinkel participated in the murders at both the Tate and LaBianca murder scenes. Testimony at trial showed that she chased an injured and screaming Abigail Folger from the house onto the expansive lawn, where she continued to stab her 28 times, CNN reported.  The following night, Krenwinkel stabbed Rosemary LaBianca to death, testimony showed. She later scrawled “Death to Pigs” on the wall in Leno LaBianca’s blood. Krenwinkel has been denied parole 14 times, most recently in June.  Linda Kasabian Linda Kasabian, who drove the killers to both the Tate and LaBianca scenes because she was the only family member with a valid driver’s license, was offered immunity from prosecution in exchange for her testimony at trial.  Kasabian, who Watson ordered to remain outside during the Tate murders, later recalled seeing some of the victims run screaming from the house, followed by their killers. She also remained outside at the LaBianca house.  The Times reported that, as of 1994, Kasabian was a mother of four. She was believed to be living on the East Coast.  Robert “Bobby” Beausoleil and Bruce Davis Bobby Beausoleil, 70, who was convicted of murdering Gary Hinman on Manson’s orders, is housed at California Medical Facility in Vacaville, according to CNN. In jail awaiting trial for Hinman’s slaying in August 1969, he was not involved in the Tate-LaBianca murders.  Bruce Davis, 75, is imprisoned at the California Men’s Colony at San Luis Obispo, where he is serving a life sentence in the murders of Hinman and Shorty Shea. Davis, who the Times reported has been denied parole 30 times, became a born-again Christian in prison and earned a doctoral degree in religious philosophy.  Steve “Clem” Grogan Clem Grogan, who rode along with Manson and the other killers the night of the LaBianca murders, did not participate in the killings. He did help Manson, Watson and Davis kill Shorty Shea, however.  Grogan, who was convicted and sentenced to life in prison, was released on parole in 1985 after he helped authorities recover Shea’s remains by drawing a map to where the stuntman’s body was buried.  Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme Squeaky Fromme, who was one of Manson’s most devoted followers, did not participate in the murders, but was present outside the courthouse every day during the murder trial of Manson and the other defendants.  Fromme achieved her own notoriety in 1975 when she attempted to assassinate then-President Gerald Ford during a visit to Sacramento. Her gun did not fire and Secret Service agents wrestled her to the ground.  The Times reported that Fromme, who was sentenced to life in prison, escaped from a West Virginia federal prison in 1987, but was recaptured two days later. She continued to write to Manson while in prison.  Fromme, now 68, was paroled in August 2009 after serving 34 years in prison, the newspaper said. 
  • It'll begin next month. The US Army Corps of Engineers, Jacksonville District, has awarded a nearly $33 million contract to the Dutra Group to renourish Fernandina Beach, as well as carry out the next scheduled dredging of US Naval Station Kings Bay.  According to the Corps, the renourishment will start near Fort Clinch State Park's coast boundary, near New York Avenue, and will go as far south as Sadler Road.  It's estimated the renourishment at Fernandina Beach will involve about 740,000 cubic yards of sand. We’re told the contractor will also disperse about 1,020,000 cubic yards of non-beach compatible sand, just offshore.  They're actually planning on getting some of the sand used in this project from dredging the Kings Bay Entrance Channel, which they say will save about $13.5 million.  Construction is set to begin in December and will last about 3 months. The dredging will end before March 31, 2018,  due to turtle restrictions.  The Corps says this project is critical to the port and also to the Navy base, so cargo can get through.
  • Authorities are investigating after an Indiana man was found dead Sunday in what officials characterized as an accident during a deer hunting trip in Harrison County. >> Read more trending news Members of 58-year-old Thomas Zimmerman’s party found him unresponsive Sunday night as they were hunting on private property near Elizabeth, officials with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources said in a news release. Indiana conservation officers were called around 6:40 p.m. Investigators said Zimmerman, of Borden, was in an elevated, ladder-type tree stand. Authorities used a rope and pulley system to lower Zimmerman from the tree stand. “Zimmerman died due to a close-range gunshot wound to the head,” Indiana Department of Natural Resources officials said. “No foul play is suspected.” Additional information on the circumstances surrounding the accident was not immediately available. Authorities said Monday that they are awaiting the results of toxicology and other tests.
  • “Touched By An Angel” actress and music legend Della Reese passed away on Sunday, friends said in a statement to PEOPLE. She was 86. >> Read more trending news “On behalf of her husband, Franklin Lett, and all her friends and family, I share with you the news that our beloved Della Reese has passed away peacefully at her California home last evening surrounded by love. She was an incredible wife, mother, grandmother, friend, and pastor, as well as an award-winning actress and singer. Through her life and work she touched and inspired the lives of millions of people,” Reese’s “Touched by an Angel” co-star Roma Downey said in a statement to PEOPLE. “She was a mother to me and I had the privilege of working with her side by side for so many years on ‘Touched By an Angel.’ I know heaven has a brand new angel this day. Della Reese will be forever in our hearts. Rest In Peace, sweet angel. We love you.” Downey posted to Facebook on Friday, requesting that fans pray for Reese. Before landing the role as Tess on “Touched by an Angel,” Reese was an accomplished singer who rose to national fame in 1957 with her song, “And That Reminds Me.” She had several other hits, including “Not One Minute More,” “And Now,” “Don’t You Know?” and “The Most Beautiful Words.” When she made the move to television, Reese saw success in parts on series including “The Love Boat,” “MacGyver” and “The Young and the Restless.” She also had her own television variety hour called “Della” and was the first black woman to co-host “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.” She went on to play Tess in “Touched by an Angel’s” 1994 debut and continued through the end of the series in 2003. Reese had a near-death experience in 1979 when she suffered a brain aneurysm. The health scare lead her to found her own church, Understanding Principles for Better Living. She is survived by her husband Franklin Lett and children James, Franklin and Dominique. Her daughter Deloreese Owens passed away in 2002. The Cox Media Group National Content Desk contributed to this report.
  • The New York Times officials announced Monday that they were suspending reporter Glenn Thrush in the wake of allegations that the White House reporter made unwanted sexual advances toward multiple women. >> Read more trending news Thrush was accused of inappropriate behavior in a story published Monday by Vox. Thrush’s former colleague, Laura McGann, said he kissed her and put his hand on her thigh while they were at a bar one night after he told the third person in their group to leave them. The incident allegedly took place five years ago, while Thrush was a reporter for Politico. He joined the New York Times in January to cover the Trump administration, according to the newspaper. McGann, who was an editor at Politico when the alleged incident took place, said Thrush later told colleagues that their encounter went the other way and that he rejected advances from her. He reiterated his recollection to Vox, saying in a statement that “the encounter described was consensual, brief, and ended by me.” Three other women recounted similar tales to Vox involving Thrush. They declined to be identified. “I apologize to any woman who felt uncomfortable in my presence, and for any situation where I behaved inappropriately,” Thrush told Vox Sunday in an emailed statement. “Any behavior that makes a woman feel disrespected or uncomfortable is unacceptable.” Officials with the Times said Monday that they were opening an investigation into the alleged incidents, one of which reportedly took place in June, after Thrush joined the newspaper. “The behavior attributed to Glenn in this Vox story is very concerning and not in keeping with the standards and values of The New York Times,” the Times officials said in a statement. “We intend to fully investigate and while we do, Glenn will be suspended.” Thrush said he was “deeply sorry” for an encounter that happened in June, in which a woman said Thrush began kissing her on the street after they had been in a bar. Thrush said he hasn’t had alcohol since the event, which he called “life changing.” Another woman in the story talks about a consensual drunken encounter with Thrush five years ago that left her rattled, and a fourth woman who was surprised by an unexpected kiss. Thrush worked as the chief political correspondent at Politico and as a senior staff writer for Politico Magazine before joining the Times staff. He previously worked at Newsday. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

The Latest News Videos