Robert Todd Lincoln Beckwith, Abraham Lincoln's great-grandson and the last direct descendant of the Civil War President, died Tuesday at a nursing home after a lengthy illness. He was 81.
His attorney, Elizabeth Young of Washington, said Beckwith's grandfather was Robert Todd Lincoln, the President's eldest son. He served as secretary of war under President James Garfield and as U.S. minister to Great Britain under President Benjamin Harrison.
Beckwith's mother was Jessie Lincoln Beckwith, the granddaughter of the 16th President.
Lincoln's wife, Mary Todd Lincoln, gave birth to Robert Todd in 1843, when the couple boarded for $4 a week at the Globe Tavern in Springfield, Ill. The Lincolns had three more children, all sons, who died before reaching adulthood.
A short, fragile-looking man, Beckwith bore little resemblance to his famed ancestor. He did not publicize his background and once said he was occasionally embarrassed by the public's fascination with his family's history.
Beckwith kept several mementos of the Lincoln White House, including some pieces of the state china service and some of the Lincoln silver. He also had Lincoln's rifle, which he never shot. He later gave it to the Smithsonian Institution.
In the last year Beckwith made donations of money and Lincoln artifacts to several museums and foundations.
Beckwith attended Phillips Exeter Academy and New York Military Academy. He received a law degree from National University Law School, now Georgetown University.
In World War II, he was a lieutenant commander with the Coast Guard.
A family friend in Deltaville, Va., said Beckwith had been in the Saluda home for the last few years and that he apparently lived comfortably off the family inheritance.
"He didn't do anything," said Young, who was Beckwith's attorney for 40 years. "He lived off his wealth. As far as I know, all the money came from the Lincoln family."
Beckwith, who had no children, is survived by his wife, Margaret. A family friend said they had been married for about four years.