Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Senator Inouye to lie in state

Senator Daniel Inouye of Hawaii, who passed away Monday. From senate.gov
As many of you probably heard, Senator Daniel Inouye passed away on Monday at the age of 88. He was a decorated war hero, who earned the Congressional Medal of Honor for his actions in Italy during the Second World War. It has also been announced that Senator Inouye will be the thirtieth person to lie in state in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda. Senator Inouye's story was featured in the Ken Burns series, The War.

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 Lincoln Catafalque has been used for every other lying in state ceremony since, and for a few other events. In July 2010, longtime West Virginia Senator Robert Byrd's remains rested upon the catafalque in the Senate Chamber.

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.