|Senator Daniel Inouye of Hawaii, who passed away Monday. From senate.gov|
Since I haven't updated in too long (December busyness will cause things like that to happen), I figured a brief history of the lying in state ceremony would be appropriate.
The first person to lie in state was Henry Clay of Kentucky, a Speaker of the House and longtime senator known as the "Great Compromiser," in 1852. David and Jeanne Heidler, in Henry Clay: The Essential American, provide a beautiful description of the ceremony in the book's first pages.
Abraham Lincoln was the second person, and the first of eleven presidents, to lie in state after his assassination in April 1865. For the ceremony, a catafalque of pine boards and black cloth was assembled:
|Lincoln Catafalque. From senate.gov|
The full list of those who have lain in state can be found here.
Senator Inouye will join Clay, Charles Sumner (1874), John A. Logan (1886), Robert Taft (1953), Everett Dirksen (1969), Hubert Humphrey (1978), and Claude Pepper (1989) as the only sitting senators to lie in state.
There are a number of war heroes who have lain in state: Admiral George Dewey (1917), the Unknown Soldiers from World War I (1921), World War II (1958), Korea (1958), and Vietnam (1984), General John J. Pershing (1948), General Douglas Macarthur (1964), and General Dwight D. Eisenhower (1969).
A few names stand out. Former President William Howard Taft was Chief Justice of the United States at the time of his death in 1930. J. Edgar Hoover, longtime director of the FBI is on the list. Also, Pierre L'Enfant, the man who laid out the city of Washington, DC, lie in state before he was reinterred from a pauper's grave to Arlington National Cemetery in 1909.
When Officers Jacob Chesnut and John Gibson of the U.S. Capitol Police were killed in the line of duty in 1998, Congress created the lying in honor ceremony to pay respects to those who do not quite meet the dignitary status for the lying in state ceremony. Rosa Parks was the only other individual to lie in honor. There are only a few differences from the lying in state ceremony. Notably, the casket does not rest upon the Lincoln Catafalque.
Hopefully this sheds some light on how rare the lying in state ceremony it is, but nobody deserves it more than the American hero and public servant, Senator Inouye.