The Death of a King

Herbert Hoover with King Tut

One of the most requested Hoover photographs shows President Hoover with King Tut, the family German shepherd. The Hoovers were great dog lovers and as parents of two boys, frequently received pleas for yet one more pet. There is no complete listing of all the family pets over the years, but many creatures seemed to have been treated as cherished family members. King Tut, however, was a particular favorite of Mr. Hoover. There are home movies showing President Hoover feeding King Tut from the White House dinner table, something all dog trainers would frown upon today. Because of the American fascination with Presidential pets, images of President Hoover with King Tut were popular.

As King Tut grew older and less interested in the attentions of White House visitors, the Hoovers decided to send him to a familiar but quieter location. Several newspapers reported that King Tut was sent to Camp Rapidan, where he later died. These news sources have been cited in published biographies of Hoover, continuing the misinformation.

In fact, the Hoovers asked their good friend, United States Senator Frederic Collin Walcott from Connecticut if he and his wife Mary would take care of King Tut. Walcott had served under Hoover in the United States Food Administration during World War I. When Walcott was elected to the United States Senate in 1928, he rented the house on S Street belonging to Herbert and Lou Hoover since they would be living in the White House. King Tut, having lived in the house for almost a decade, was very familiar with the residence and the surrounding grounds. It was here that the dog died, not Camp Rapidan. Senator Walcott wrote a very touching letter of October 14, 1929, describing King Tut’s final days:

“My dear Mr. President and Mrs. Hoover,
The passing of Tut is a real tragedy to the Walcotts. His loyalty to a few chosen friends his unswerving devotion to a still smaller group endeared him to those he favored.
He was conscious of his failing eyesight but he tried to cover up his age by stretching himself up at full length and putting his front paws on my chest, that was the signal for a short romp in a rough and tumble, if I left one chair to go to another in the same room Tut would move with me.
He was always waiting for me for breakfast with the birds and squirrels and in the evening he invariably went with me to my room while I dressed for dinner.
He was a strong character and we miss him terribly. Butler is of course broken hearted. Butler stumbled over him in the dark and Tut got up slowly and went into the laundry, I had him out for a drive early that morning and that evening he met me as usual and followed me upstairs perfectly well apparently. Yesterday Sunday morning Butler supposing he was upstairs with me did not look for him until about 8:30 when he knew I was going to play golf, not finding him then he started to look for him, he was lying close to the water heater in the laundry dead. He must have died soon after going in there from Butler’s room. He was never out of the yard except with Butler and never out of Butler’s sight. We have lost a good friend.
I am going to place a small stone at his grave and a small suitable tablet in the yard here if you don’t mind.”

Most sincerely,
F.C. Walcott”

At the time of death, it was estimated that King Tut was about ten years old. The S Street house still stands in Washington, D.C. and it now serves as the Myanmar Embassy. It is unknown if the marker Walcott erected in memory of King Tut remains in the yard.

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