Statesman’s Gravestone Sitting in Clarendon Construction Area

by ARLnow.com May 2, 2012 at 12:20 pm 3,935 41 Comments

Update on 5/7/12 — We have published a statement from Arlington National Cemetery.

A weathered gravestone for Robert Porter Patterson, a top military official during World War II, can be seen propped up against an old building inside the future Penzance office construction site in Clarendon.

Patterson was the Undersecretary of War during World War II and is credited with being “instrumental in the mobilization of the armed forces preparatory to and during” the war. He later served as Secretary of War under President Harry Truman.

Patterson was also a Harvard Law School graduate, a decorated army officer during World War I, a U.S. District Court judge, a prominent New York City attorney, and president of the Council of Foreign Relations. He died in a plane crash in 1952 and was buried in Section 30 of Arlington National Cemetery.

It’s unclear how Patterson’s gravestone — inscribed “Soldier. Jurist. Statesman.” — came to be propped up against the aging brick building along 11th Street N., next to a small fenced-in parking lot. The structure is set to be torn down as part of a large new office complex that will soon be built on the site.

One likely explanation is that the gravestone was somehow connected to the now-shuttered T.A. Sullivan and Son cemetery monument business, which is located within the Penzance block and which provided monuments to Arlington National Cemetery. However, we were unable to reach anybody at the business’ Vienna location to confirm that.

Reached by phone, Arlington National Cemetery officials were unable to provide any information about the wayward gravestone, and were unable to confirm whether there is a newer monument now marking Patterson’s grave.

In 2010 the cemetery was rocked by a scandal after it was revealed that hundreds, maybe even thousands of graves were misidentified or misplaced and that a number of gravestones had been discarded along the banks of a small stream.

Update at 2:55 p.m. — As commenters have pointed out, it appears that a newer gravestone, with Patterson’s and his wife’s names both engraved, is currently up in Arlington National Cemetery.

Hat tip to Peter Golkin

  • jackson

    Well, that’s half the battle. Now confirm his body is where it’s supposed to be!

    • Clarendon

      According to findagrave he is buried in Arlington Cemetary, Section 30, Lot 612.


      • jackson

        But according to findagrave his tombstone is in Arlington Cemetery too, not leaning next to an abandoned building miles away.

      • Huh

        Interesting….there is a story behind this

        • Clarendon

          Arlington Cemetery’s issues aside, the most likely seems that the gravestone was engraved incorrectly or someone changed their mind on what it should say so it was used as a showroom model or just put in storage.

          • drax

            Another possibility is this one was replaced because it was worn down.

        • BoredHouseWife

          it was probably a rejected headstone.

  • YoBimbo

    Yeah, I think the T.A. Sullivan angle is probably your answer. On a side note, I’ll miss driving by T.A. Sullivan and laughing about the idea of drunks stumbling out of Clarendon bars and encountering gravestones.

  • nice. really reverent. how does this stuff even happen? jeez.

    • SomeGuy

      Nice. Really presumptuous. Why do people jump to conclusions about this stuff so haphazardly? jeez.

      • cuz it’s fun.

        • Josh S

          Yeah, this item almost seems like it was planted just to provoke the discussion board crowd….

          • PhilL

            I doubt the site could have predicted or would have wanted the kind of freakish reactions this story is prompting.

  • its an old stone

    There is a new one in place, updated when his wife died in 1988.
    No crisis. calm down.

    • Huh

      And there it is …….

    • South Side Chris

      But I want to whipped up into a righteous frenzy and your simple straightforward answers are just not facilitating this.

      • Ed

        “Its an old stone,” thank you for doing the reporter’s job on this one. I would invoice them if I were you.

        • We figured that much, but over the course of three days the cemetery refused (and still refuses) to confirm that.

          • Josh S

            Gosh, then why publish? If the story remains unpublished, is anyone’s life changed even one iota?

            I guess a bloggers gotta blog, though…..

          • But you published the story anyway?

            Suggesting incompetence of a Arlington business that has been here for more than a century? Nice. Why don’t you just pull the story?

          • It is irreverent to have a person’s old gravestone sitting out in a parking lot. That is the news story here.

            Also, we do not allow organizations to effectively filibusterer a news article by refusing to comment on it for days on end.

          • SomeGuy

            What is your preferred method of gravestone disposal?

          • “At one time, gravestones were discarded in landfills. The cemetery ended that practice because Washington area residents were plucking the stones and using them for patios, driveways and other home improvement projects. Under the current disposal policy, headstones are to be ground up so the names cannot be recognized and then recycled.”


          • SomeGuy

            That’s Arlington Cemetery’s disposal policy as we know it today, but it was updated in 1994. From this article:

            “They vowed to remove them as soon as possible and dispose of them in accordance with a 1994 policy that dictates that discarded stones be crushed and recycled.”


            Input from other commenters here suggests that the stone of the deceased was replaced prior to enactment of that policy… by a business that’s known to have been in operation long before 1994, so this stone would have been grandfathered in under the old policy.

          • YouCouldActuallyReport

            Rather than waiting for the answer from the cemetery, why didn’t you just go down there and actually look at the grave? The cemetery is open to the public and has grave maps that could help you find it. It’s called reporting. Maybe you’ve heard of it?

    • drax

      Wondering how you learned this.


    Do you think his family is offended by this. FREDTERP


      Why do you not know how to punctuate. BOBWAHOO

  • drax

    Unless it is the reverse side, this stone is different from the one pictured here:

    http://www.arlingtoncemetery.net/robertpo.htm (scroll down)

    Evidence that maybe this one’s an older one.

    • drax

      Just noticed – this one lists his wife too, with a deceased date in 1988. So maybe it was replaced after his wife died in order to add her name.

      • drax

        Someone go look on the other side of this old stone. If that other side is different from the one in the picture on this site too, the mystery is likely solved: It was taken out in 1988 and replaced with a new one with his wife’s name on it.

  • nom de guerre

    Robert Porter Patterson’s son, Robert Porter Patterson, Jr. is a regular at Sam’s Corner and he shared that this stone was replaced upon the death of his mother.

  • karzai

    what’s the definition of a “regular” at Sam’s Corner?

    • nom de guerre

      someone who has been there at least once.

    • BM

      “what’s the definition of a “regular” at Sam’s Corner?”

      For most of our patrons, it is “once a day” unless the special is particularly spicy …….

      • karzai

        Ok, well at least now I know who I’m talking to behind all these masks that are used on this blog. I wish everyone well in their retirement.

        I would have been happy to have patronized Sam’s Corner and made everyone’s acquaintance.

        • DarkHeart

          Perhaps to reopen as Norm’s Stool?

          • BM

            “Norm’s Stool”

            Very puny…….

    • drax

      Someone who has actually seen it open.

  • moo

    Is this supposed to be a news article on Fox? Talk about jumping to conclusions.

  • CW

    Was clearly being used for Crossfit WODs, yo.


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