Murderer James W. Rodgers was put in front of a firing squad in Utah and asked if he had a last request. He replied, “Bring me a bullet-proof vest.”
Charles “Lucky” Luciano was a mob leader who helped the U.S. work with the Sicilian Mafia during World War II in exchange for a reduced prison sentence. His last words were, “Tell Georgie I want to get in the movies one way or another.” And it worked! His life story is told in the movies Lucky Luciano, The Last Testament of Lucky Luciano, and many more. He also appears as a character in HBO’s Boardwalk Empire.
John Arthur Spenkelink was executed in Florida in 1979. He spent his final days writing these last words on various pieces of mail: “Capital punishment means those without the capital get the punishment.”
Convicted murderer Thomas J. Grasso used his last words to complain about his last meal. He said, “I did not get my Spaghetti-O’s; I got spaghetti. I want the press to know this.”
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who wrote the Sherlock Holmes stories, died at age 71 in his garden. He turned to his wife and said, “You are wonderful,” then clutched his chest and died.
Writer T.S. Eliot was only able to whisper one word as he died: “Valerie,” the name of his wife.
Actor and comedian W.C. Fields died in 1946. He last words: “God damn the whole friggin’ world and everyone in it but you, Carlotta.” He was speaking to Carlotta Monti, his longtime mistress.
Percy Grainger was an Australian composer who, with his dying words, told his wife Ella, “You’re the only one I like.”
Actor Michael Landon, best known for Little House on the Prairie and Highway to Heaven, died of cancer in 1991. His family gathered around his bed, and his son said it was time to move on. Landon said, “You’re right. It’s time. I love you all.”
Football coach Vince Lombardi died of cancer in 1970. As he died, Lombardi turned to his wife Marie and said, “Happy anniversary. I love you.”
O.O. McIntyre was an American reporter. He died at age 53, and spoke his last words to his wife Maybelle: “Snooks, will you please turn this way. I like to look at your face.”
When he was 57, Edward R. Murrow died while patting his wife’s hand. He said, “Well, Jan, we were lucky at that.”
John Wayne died at age 72 in L.A. He turned to his wife and said, “Of course I know who you are. You’re my girl. I love you.”
Humphrey Bogart’s wife Lauren Bacall had to leave the hospital to pick up their kids. Bogart said, “Goodbye, kid. Hurry back.” Not quite, “Here’s looking at you, kid,” but close.
Before Ernest Hemingway committed suicide, he told his wife Mary, “Goodnight my kitten.”
Donald O’Connor was a singer, dancer, and actor. He also hosted the Academy Awards in 1954. O’Connor died at age 78 with his family gathered around him. He joked, “I’d like to thank the Academy for my lifetime achievement award that I will eventually get.” He still hasn’t gotten one.
Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Eugene O’Neill was born in a room at the Broadway Hotel on what is now Times Square. He died at age 65 in a Boston hotel. His last words? “I knew it! I knew it! Born in a hotel room and, goddamn it, dying in a hotel room.”
Jack Soo was an actor on the TV series Barney Miller. On the show, there was a running gag about Soo’s character making crappy coffee in the office. Soo developed cancer of the esophagus, and when was being wheeled into an operating room, he joked to Barney Miller co-star Hal Linden, “It must have been the coffee.” In a tribute episode, cast members raised coffee cups in Soo’s memory.
Josephine Baker knew how to party. She sang, danced, and acted. She adopted a dozen kids and lived in Paris. On the last night of her life, she left a party being held in her honor, saying, “Oh, you young people act like old men. You are no fun.”
Charles Gussman was a writer and TV announcer, who wrote the pilot episode of Days of Our Lives, among other shows. As he became ill, he said he wanted his last words to be memorable. When he daughter reminded him of this, he gently removed his oxygen mask and whispered: “And now for a final word from our sponsor—.”
When Groucho Marx was dying, he let out one last quip: “This is no way to live!”
Groucho’s brother Leonard, who was better known as Chico Marx, gave instructions to his wife as his last words: “Remember, Honey, don’t forget what I told you. Put in my coffin a deck of cards, a mashie niblick, and a pretty blonde.” For the record, a “mashie niblick” is a kind of golf club.
Wilson Mizner is best known for his bon mots, though he was a successful playwright. He’s known for the line, “Be nice to people on the way up because you’ll meet the same people on the way down.” When Mizner was on his deathbed, a priest said, “I’m sure you want to talk to me.” Mizner told the priest, “Why should I talk to you? I’ve just been talking to your boss.”
As he was dying, Alfred Hitchcock said, “One never knows the ending. One has to die to know exactly what happens after death, although Catholics have their hopes.”
Basketball great “Pistol” Pete Maravich collapsed during a pickup game. His last words: “I feel great.”
Vladimir Ilych Lenin’s last words were, “Good dog.” (Technically, he said “Vot sobaka.”) He said this to a dog that brought him a dead bird.
Blues guitarist Leadbelly said, “Doctor, if I put this here guitar down now, I ain’t never gonna wake up.” And he was right.
Thomas Fantet de Lagny was a mathematician. On his deathbed, he was asked, “What is the square of 12?” His last words: “One hundred and forty-four.”
Derek Jarman was an artist, writer, and filmmaker. His last words: “I want the world to be filled with white fluffy duckies.”
Sir Winston Churchill’s last words were, “I’m bored with it all.”
Actress Joan Crawford yelled at her housekeeper, who was praying as Crawford died. Crawford said, “Damn it! Don’t you dare ask God to help me!”
Bo Diddley died giving a thumbs-up as he listened to the song “Walk Around Heaven.” His last word was “Wow.”
Baseball player “Moe” Berg’s last words: “How did the Mets do today?”
Emily Dickinson’s last words were, “I must go in, for the fog is rising.”
As Truman Capote lay dying, he repeated, “Mama— Mama— Mama.”
James Brown said, “I’m going away tonight.”
Surgeon Joseph Henry Green was checking his own pulse as he lay dying. His last word: “Stopped.”
And according to Steve Jobs’ sister Mona, the Apple founder’s last words were, “Oh wow. Oh wow. Oh wow.”
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Note: the source for most of these is the fantastic reference book Last Words of Notable People: Final Words of More than 3500 Noteworthy People Throughout History by William B. Brahms. It’s literally filled with this stuff.