Bush buried on presidential library grounds; law prevents an Obama Center burial
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WASHINGTON — The burial of former President George Herbert Walker Bush on the grounds of his presidential library and museum at Texas A&M University on Thursday raises a question: Is it possible for former President Barack Obama to be laid to rest at his presidential center in Chicago?
For now, the answer is no, according to a Bill McCaffrey, a spokesman for the City of Chicago Law Department.
Burials in Chicago can only take place in cemeteries, according to city ordinances. The 19.3 acres in Jackson Park to be the site of the Obama Presidential Center is not a legal cemetery.
“That’s what these ordinances indicate,” McCaffrey told me.
A spokesman for the Obama Foundation declined to comment on the question if the plans for the Obama Center provide Obama and former first lady Michelle a burial option and if the foundation agrees with the Law Department conclusion.
The foundation will have a 99-year lease with the city for the land in Jackson Park, and a gravesite was not designated in plans filed with the city. The remainder of the historic park remains in control of the Chicago Park District.
Bush, the 41st president, was buried in a family plot located behind the Bush Library in College Station, Texas, next to his wife, Barbara, who died on April 17, 2018 and daughter Robin, who passed away in 1953. His state funeral was Wednesday in Washington.
Former President George W. Bush, the 43rd president, changed his mind about his burial after his mother’s funeral, according to The Statesman, a Texas paper. The final resting place of Bush and his wife, Laura, will be the grounds of the George W. Bush Presidential Library at Southern Methodist University in Dallas.
Bush spokesman Freddy Ford told the Statesman, “When President Bush went to his mother’s burial, which was at the Bush Library in College Station, he felt that added a nice permanence to the library there, and he and Mrs. Bush decided they wanted to do the same thing. So they will be laid to rest in Dallas.”
The Clinton Presidential Center in Little Rock, Ark., has a burial site for Bill and Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Clinton friend James “Skip” Rutherford told me in a 2015 interview, “The decision where President Clinton is going to be buried is entirely up to President Clinton,” Rutherford told me. “But if he chooses the Clinton Library site as a burial site, the library is ready. “
Former President Jimmy Carter, 94, now the oldest former president, and wife Rosalynn will be buried at their house in Plains, Ga., and not at the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum in Atlanta.
Carter said in a Dec. 3, 2006 C-SPAN2 interview, “Plains is special to us. I could be buried in Arlington Cemetery or wherever I want, but my wife was born here and I was born here.”
President Herbert Hoover is buried at the Hoover Library and Museum in West Branch, Iowa. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt is buried at the Franklin Roosevelt Library and Museum in Hyde Park, N.Y.
President Harry Truman’s grave is at the Truman Library and Museum in Independence, Mo. President Dwight Eisenhower’s final resting place is at the Eisenhower Library and Museum in Abilene, Kan.
President Richard Nixon is buried at the Nixon Library and Birthplace in Yorba Linda, Calif. President Gerald Ford’s grave is at the Gerald Ford Museum in Grand Rapids, Mich. President Ronald Reagan is entombed at the Reagan Library and Museum in Simi Valley, Calif.
And President Abraham Lincoln, as good Illinoisans should know on this week marking the 200th anniversary of the state, is buried at the Oak Ridge Cemetery in Springfield.
Note: This story has been corrected to reflect the Rutherford interview took place in 2015.