Who Are Honored to Lay In State?

The remains of George H. W. Bush lying in state in the Capitol rotunda on December 3, 2018 (Photo by House photographer Dana Barciniak)

As lying in state has finished for former President George Herbert Walker Bush (Bush 41) and is on his way back to Houston for his final burial, there has been some mention in the news that only 12 people had lain in state, and no details given as to who they were. 

Bush 41 lain in state December 3-5, 2018. He became the 13th president lying in state in the Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol. 

I know you can look it up and search it on the Internet, but I wanted do some research into this and provide some more details from a few more sources othe r than pulling down the PDF file (link below) listing who they were and get into some of the policies and politics that go into who gets the honor of lying in state. 

Since the practice started in 1852, 33 people, including 13 presidents and four Unknown Soldiers from WWI, WWII, the Korean War and the Vietnam War have been extended the honor to lay in state in the Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol. (Bush 41 is included in these figures).

The first person to have this honor bestowed upon him was not a president, but the Speaker of the House, Henry Clay, in 1852.

According to information from the Architect of the Capitol (AOC):

Clay was a member of the House of Representatives for five non- consecutive terms (1811-25). He served as Speaker of the House in 1811-14, 1815-20 and 1823- 25. He was Secretary of State from 1825 to 1829. Clay also served as U.S. Senator from Kentucky intermittently for 18 years between 1806 and 1852. He died June 29, 1852, in Washington, D.C. during the 32nd Congress, 1st Session, becoming the first person honored by a funeral ceremony in the Capitol Rotunda. No resolution.

Clay was part of the group automatically honored by lying in state.  He was a congressman,  and was a senator when he died. He didn’t need a resolution from Congress to lie in state. That’s what “no resolution” above means. 

So who gets the honor to lay in state and what are the requirements regarding who can lay in state in the rotunda of the US capital? 

Lying in State Time Lapse
Published on Sep 28, 2018
 

The Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol has been considered the most suitable place for the nation to pay final tribute to its most eminent citizens by having their remains lay in state (in the case of government officials and military officers) or in honor (in the case of private citizens). When the Arechitect of the Capitol is notified that a ceremony will occur, teams are coordinated across the Capitol campus and a commitment to excellence ensures that no detail is overlooked.

Requirements For Lying In State

Lying in state is considered a rare honor that can only be authorized by either a congressional resolution or approved by the congressional leadership, and with the permission of the survivors  according to the AOC. 

Not everyone given this honor have had it accepted by their surviving family members. 

That honor, based on regulation and custom, is not automatic except for presidents  and former presidents. Others who may be granted lying in state include military commanders and members of Congress,  and other eminent Americans,  such as Rosa Parks and Billy Graham.

The person lying in state is guarded by a member of each branch of the military, and in many cases such as the president and war heroes, the military will take the responsibility to move the casket in and out of the Rotunda.  If they are  lying in honor, then the guarding is done by the capitol police.  I’ll have more on lying in honor below.

The group responsible for setting up a person lying in state is the Architect of the Capitol (AOC). The AOC is made up of about 2,300 people who maintains all the buildings and grounds of the United States Capitol.  And part of their responsibility is to set up everything needed if a person is to lay in state in the US Capitol building. https://www.aoc.gov

Another organization in the government also responsible for funerals is the U.S. State Funeral (National Capital Region)

The evolution of state funerals goes back to the first one done when Benjamin Franklin died, followed then by general and the first U.S. president, George Washington. 

According to the U.S. State Funeral:

Funeral services of great magnificence evolved as customs (from what is known about early Christian mourning) in the 6th century. To this day, no religious ceremonies are conducted with more pomp than those intended to commemorate the departed. The funerals of service members, more than any other ceremony, have followed an old tradition as the living honor the brave dead.

To read the history of the funerals conducted by the United States government starting with Benjamin Franklin, you can go directly to the “Evolution of State Funerals” page.

Lain In Honor & Repose
Congress also created a similar, though not identical privilege for distinguished Americans who do not qualify for the lying in state designation.  This process is called “lying in honor.”  When lying in honor, the person can either be lain in the Rotunda, or for example, in the Senate Hall or House Chamber. Other places that were used for lying in honor include the Chamber of Commerce.

Lying in repose is something that is done for Supreme Court justices, and they are lain in the Great Hall of the Supreme Court.  But not just supreme court justices are laying in repose. For example, former president Richard M. Nixon was lain in repose in the Richard Nixon Presidential Library in Yorba Linda, California.  The pallbearers consisted of eight members of the military and according to police, even due to the severe weather they estimated that 50,000 people visited Nixon, spending 18 hours in line to see him. And according to police, even due to the severe weather they estimated that 50,000 people visited Nixon, spending 18 hours in line to see him.

So not all presidents will want to be lain in state in the Capitol Rotunda. Many other presidents have also chosen there a library to lay and reprose. Even former President Ronald Reagan, after lying in state in the Capitol Rotunda, was transferred to his the library where he also lain in state. Since he went from the Capitol Rotunda to his library, it was a continuation of lying in state.

According to an article in the New York Times, (George Bush is lying in state. Here’s what that means) even the president himself can request, via advance notice or by a Will that he does not want to be lying in state. In the article, President Harry S. Truman decided he did not want to lie in state because he “hated those big ceremonies,” said Steve Livengood, Director of public programs and chief guide at the United States Capitol Historical Society.  He told the New York Times, “He knew his wife never wanted to be first lady and hated Washington and she would have to live through his funeral.”

From the US House of Representatives History, Art and Archives, they have an updated list of all those who have lain in state for honor on their website,  which now includes an increase or former president George Herbert Walker Bush. 

The Lincoln Catafalque

The structure, called a catafalque in French or catafalco in Italian, was used for the funerals or lying-in-state of distinguished persons.

The Lincoln Catafalque was first used when President Abraham Lincoln, the second person and first president to be lain in state is simply a bier constructed of pine boards covered with fabric. 

Since it’s construction, it has been used by most who were lying in state and even lain in honor.  Former president George Herbert Walker Bush was placed upon Lincoln’s Catafalque. 

When not in use, it is put in a special display in the Exhibition Hall of the Capitol Visitor’s Center. It is maintained by the AOC. 



Lain in Repose (Great Hall, Supreme Court)

The following short list  are the names of the Supreme Court justices that or Lain in repose in the Great Hall of the Supreme Court:

 

Lain in State or Honor (Capitol Rotunda)

Download the list below as a PDF.(link is external) (Updated January 2019)

George Herbert Walker Bush
December 3–5, 2018


 Member of the House of Representatives from Texas, January 3, 1967, to January 3, 1971; United States Ambassador to the United Nations, 1971–1973; chairman, Republican National Committee, 1973–1974; chief United States liaison officer, People’s Republic of China, 1974–1976; director, Central Intelligence Agency, 1976–1977; Vice President of the United States from January 20, 1981, to January 20, 1989; President of the United States from January 20, 1989, to January 20, 1993. Died November 30, 2018, in Houston, Texas. Authority for use of the Rotunda granted by Senate Concurrent Resolution 56, 115th Congress, 2d session, agreed to December 3, 2018.

John S. McCain III

August 31, 2018


Member of the House of Representatives from Arizona, January 3, 1983, to January 3, 1987. U.S. Senator from Arizona, January 3, 1987, to his death. Died August 25, 2018, in Sedona, Arizona. Authority for use of the Rotunda granted by Senate Concurrent Resolution 43, 115th Congress, 2d Session, agreed to August 28, 2018.

Billy Graham
February 28 – March 1, 2018; lay in honor


Minister, evangelist and adviser to presidents. Died February 21, 2018, in Montreat, North Carolina. Authority for use of the Rotunda granted by House Concurrent Resolution 107, 115th Congress, 2d Session, agreed to February 26, 2018.

Daniel K. Inouye
December 20, 2012


Senator Inouye was the first congressman to represent Hawaii when it became a state in 1959. He served in the U.S. Senate from 1963 until his death on December 17, 2012. Inouye was the second-longest serving senator in history and served as president pro tempore of the U.S. Senate. He was a World War II hero, given the Medal of Honor for his service.

Dick Cheney and members of Congress honor Gerald Ford, who lay in state in the Capitol rotunda on December 30, 2006.

Gerald R. Ford Jr.
December 30, 2006 – January 2, 2007


Ford was a member of the House of Representatives from Michigan, January 3, 1949 to December 6, 1973, when he resigned to become Vice President. He was Vice President of the United States from December 6, 1973, to August 9, 1974, when President Richard M. Nixon resigned. Ford served as President of the United States from August 9, 1974 to January 20, 1977. He died December 26, 2006, in Rancho Mirage, California, after adjournment of the 109th Congress, 2d session. Authority for use of the Rotunda granted by the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the Majority Leader of the Senate. No resolution.

Rosa Parks lying in honor in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda.

Rosa Parks lying in honor in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda.

Rosa Parks
October 30-31, 2005; lay in honor


Parks is best known as a civil rights pioneer. She died on October 24, 2005, in Detroit, Michigan. Authority for use of the Rotunda granted by Senate Concurrent Resolution 61, 109th Congress, 1st Session, agreed to October 29, 2005.

The remains of Ronald Reagan lying in state in the Capitol rotunda on June 9, 2004

Ronald Wilson Reagan
June 9-11, 2004


Reagan was governor of California from 1967 to 1975 and President of the United States from January 20, 1981 to January 20, 1989. He died June 5, 2004, in Bel Air, California. Authority for use of the Rotunda was granted by Senate Concurrent Resolution 115, 108th Congress, 2nd Session, agreed to June 9, 2004.

Jacob Joseph Chestnut and John Michael Gibson
July 28, 1998; lay in honor


Chestnut and Gibson were United States Capitol Police officers killed at the U.S. Capitol in the line of duty on July 24, 1998. Authority for use of the Rotunda was granted by House Concurrent Resolution 310, 105th Congress, 2d Session, agreed to July 27, 1998. Officer Chestnut and Detective Gibson were the first persons whose remains lay in honor in the Rotunda.

Lying in state ceremony for Claude Pepper in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda.

Lying in state ceremony for Claude Pepper in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda.

 

Claude Denson Pepper

June 1-2, 1989


Pepper served as U.S. Senator from Florida November 4, 1936 to January 3, 1951. He was a member of the House of Representatives from Florida from January 3, 1963, until his death on May 30, 1989, in Washington, D.C. Authority for use of the Rotunda was granted by House Concurrent Resolution 139, 101st Congress, 1st Session, agreed to May 31, 1989.

Unknown Soldier of the Vietnam Conflict
May 25-28, 1984


Chosen to honor the unknown Americans who lost their lives while serving in the Armed Forces of the United States in Southeast Asia during 1959-1972. Authority for use of the Rotunda was granted by House Concurrent Resolution 296, 98th Congress, 2nd Session, agreed to May 17, 1984.

Hubert H. Humphrey
January 14-15, 1978


Humphrey served as U.S. Senator from Minnesota from January 3, 1949 to December 29, 1964, when he resigned to become Vice President. He was Vice President of the United States from January 20, 1965 to January 20, 1969. Humphrey then returned to the Senate from November 3, 1970, until his death. He died on January 14, 1978, in Waverly, Minnesota, after adjournment of the 95th Congress, 1st Session. Authority for use of the Rotunda was granted by the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the Majority Leader of the Senate. No resolution.

Richard Nixon and members of Congress honor Lyndon B. Johnson who lay in state in the Capitol rotunda on January 24, 1973.

Lyndon Baines Johnson
January 24-25, 1973


Johnson was a member of the House of Representatives from Texas from April 10, 1937 to January 3, 1949. He was a U.S. Senator from Texas from January 3, 1949 to January 3, 1961, when he resigned, having been elected Vice President of the United States. Johnson served as Vice President from January 20, 1961, to November 22, 1963, when he assumed the Presidency. He served as President until January 20, 1969. Johnson died on January 22, 1973, near Johnson City, Texas. Authority for use of the Rotunda was granted by House Concurrent Resolution 90, 93rd Congress, 1st Session, agreed to January 23, 1973.

J. Edgar Hoover
May 3-4, 1972


Hoover was the first Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, serving from 1924 until his death. He died on May 2, 1972, in Washington, D.C. Authority for use of the Rotunda was granted by House Concurrent Resolution 600, 92nd Congress, 2nd Session, agreed to May 2, 1972.

Everett McKinley Dirksen
September 9-10, 1969


Member of the House of Representatives from Illinois, March 4, 1933 to January 3, 1949. U.S. Senator from Illinois, January 3, 1951, until his death. Died September 7, 1969, in Washington, D.C. Senate Resolution 254, 91st Congress, 1st Session, agreed to September 8, 1969, extended invitations to memorial service in the Rotunda, September 9, 1969.

Dwight D. Eisenhower
March 30-31, 1969


Eisenhower graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1915, was promoted to General of the Army in 1944, and was named President of Columbia University in 1948. He served as President of the United States from January 20, 1953, to January 20, 1961. Eisenhower died March 28, 1969, in Washington, D.C., during the 91st Congress, 1st Session. No resolution.

Herbert Clark Hoover
October 23-25, 1964


Hoover served as Secretary of Commerce for Presidents Warren G. Harding and Calvin Coolidge. He was Food Administrator under President Woodrow Wilson. Hoover also served as Chairman of the Commission on the Organization of Executive Branch of Government in 1947-1949 and 1953-1955. He was President of the United States from March 4, 1929, to March 3, 1933. Hoover died October 20, 1964, in New York City, after adjournment of the 88th Congress, 2nd Session. No resolution.

Douglas MacArthur
April 8-9, 1964


MacArthur was Superintendent of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point from 1919-1922; appointed Chief of Staff of the Army on November 21, 1930; and was appointed General of the Army on December 18, 1944. From July 26, 1941, through April 11, 1951, he served in the Pacific and Far East in various allied commands. MacArthur died April 5, 1964, in Washington, D.C. Authority for use of the Rotunda was granted by Senate Concurrent Resolution 74, 88th Congress, 2nd Session, agreed to April 6, 1964.

President John F. Kennedy lying in state in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda.

President John F. Kennedy lying in state in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda.

 

John F. Kennedy
November 24-25, 1963


Kennedy was a member of the House of Representatives from Massachusetts, January 3, 1947, to January 3, 1953. U.S. Senator from Massachusetts, January 3, 1953, to December 22, 1960, when he resigned to become President. President of the United States from January 20, 1961, until his death. Assassinated in Dallas, Texas, on November 22, 1963, during the 88th Congress, 1st Session. No resolution.

Unknown Soldiers of World War II and the Korean War
May 28-30, 1958


Chosen to honor and perpetuate the memory of the heroes who gave their lives while serving overseas in the Armed Forces of the United States during World War II and the Korean War, and whose identities were unknown. Authority for use of the Rotunda was granted by House Concurrent Resolution 242, 85th Congress, 2nd Session, agreed to March 6, 1958.

Robert A. Taft
August 2-3, 1953


Taft served as U.S. Senator from Ohio, January 3, 1939, until his death. He Died July 31, 1953, in New York City, during 83rd Congress, 1st Session, Senate Resolution 158, 83rd Congress, 1st Session, agreed to August 1, 1953, extended invitation to the memorial service in the Rotunda, August 3, 1953.

John Joseph Pershing
July 18-19, 1948


Pershing was General of the Armies of the United States. He graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1886 and devoted his entire life to military service. He served as Chief of Staff of the Army 1921-24; Commander of American Expeditionary Forces, World War I; distinguished service during the Philippine insurrection and Spanish-American War. Pershing died July 15, 1948, in Washington, D.C., during recess of the 80th Congress, 2nd Session. No resolution.

William Howard Taft
March 11, 1930


Taft served as President of United States from March 4, 1909 to March 4, 1913. He was Chief Justice of the United States from July 11, 1921 to February 3, 1930. Taft died on March 8, 1930, in Washington, D.C., during 71st Congress, 2nd Session. No resolution.

Warren G. Harding
August 8, 1923


Harding served as U.S. Senator from Ohio, March 4, 1915, to January 13, 1921, when he resigned, having been elected President. He was President of United States March 4, 1921, until his death. Harding died August 2, 1923, in San Francisco, California, after adjournment of the 67th Congress, 4th Session. No resolution.

John J. Pershing saluting the Unknown Soldier of World War I, who lay in state in the Capitol rotunda on November 9, 1921.

Unknown Soldier of World War I
November 9-11, 1921


Chosen to honor and perpetuate the memory of the heroes who gave their lives in World War I, the body was that of an unknown American who served as a member of the American Expeditionary Forces in Europe. Congress was in session, 67th Congress, 1st Session. No resolution.

George Dewey
January 20, 1917


Dewey was admiral of the Navy and was a hero of Manila Bay in the Spanish-American War. He died January 16, 1917, in Washington, D.C. Authority for use of the Rotunda was granted by House Concurrent Resolution 68, 64th Congress, 2nd Session, agreed to January 18, 1917.

Pierre Charles L’Enfant
(re-interment) April 28, 1909


L’Enfant was the planner of the city of Washington, D.C. He died June 14, 1825, and was buried on Digges farm in Prince George’s County, Maryland. His remains were brought to the U.S. Capitol on April 28, 1909, to be re-interred at Arlington National Cemetery. Senate Concurrent Resolution 2, 61st Congress, 1st Session granted use of the Rotunda, agreed to March 26, 1909.

William McKinley, Jr.
September 17, 1901


McKinley was a member of House of Representatives from Ohio, March 4, 1877, to May 27, 1884, and again from March 4, 1885, to March 3, 1891. He served as governor of Ohio from 1892 to 1896 and as President of United States, March 4, 1897, until his death. McKinley was assassinated September 6, 1901, in Buffalo, New York, and died there September 14, 1901, after adjournment of the 56th Congress, 2nd Session. No resolution.

John A. Logan
December 30-31, 1886


Logan was a member of House of Representatives from Illinois, March 4, 1859, to April 2, 1862, when he resigned to enter the Union Army, and again from March 4, 1867, until March 3, 1871. He served as U.S. Senator from Illinois, March 4, 1871, to March 3, 1877, and again from March 4, 1879, to December 26, 1886. Logan died on December 26, 1886, in Washington, D.C., during the 49th Congress, 2nd Session. No resolution.

James A. Garfield lying in state in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda.

James A. Garfield lying in state in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda.

 

James A. Garfield
September 21-23, 1881


Garfield was a member of House of Representatives from Ohio, March 4, 1863, to November 8, 1880, when he resigned, having been elected President. He served as President of the United States from March 4, 1881, until his death. Garfield was assassinated July 2, 1881, in Washington, D.C., and died September 19, 1881, in Elberon, New Jersey, after adjournment of 46th Congress, 3rd Session. No resolution.

Henry Wilson
November 25-26, 1875


Wilson served as a U.S. Senator from Massachusetts, January 31, 1855, to March 3, 1873, when he resigned to become Vice President of the United States. He was Vice President from March 4, 1873, until his death on November 22, 1875. Wilson died in the Vice President’s room in the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C., after adjournment of the 43rd Congress, 2nd Session. No resolution.

Charles Sumner
March 13, 1874


Sumner served as U.S. Senator from Massachusetts, April 24, 1851, until his death, March 11, 1874. He died in Washington, D.C., during the 43rd Congress. No resolution.

Funeral of Thaddeus Stevens in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda.

Funeral of Thaddeus Stevens in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda.

 

Thaddeus Stevens
August 13-14, 1868


Stevens was a member of the House of Representatives from Pennsylvania, March 4, 1849, to March 3, 1853, and again from March 4, 1859, until his death on August 11, 1868. He died in Washington, D.C., during recess of the 40th Congress, 2nd Session and lay in state in the Capitol Rotunda. No resolution.

The body of the martyr President, Abraham Lincoln. Lying in state at the City Hall, N.Y. April, 24th & 25th 1865.

 

Abraham Lincoln
April 19-21, 1865


Lincoln was a member of the House of Representatives from Illinois, March 4, 1847, to March 3, 1849. He was President of the United States from March 4, 1861, until his death. Lincoln was assassinated April 14, 1865, in Washington, D.C., and died there April 15, 1865 after adjournment of the 38th Congress, 2nd Session. The historic catafalque was constructed to support Lincoln’s casket during his lying in state. No resolution.

Henry Clay
July 1, 1852


Henry Clay was a member of the House of Representatives for five non- consecutive terms (1811-25). He served as Speaker of the House in 1811-14, 1815-20 and 1823- 25. He was Secretary of State from 1825 to 1829. Clay also served as U.S. Senator from Kentucky intermittently for 18 years between 1806 and 1852. He died June 29, 1852, in Washington, D.C. during the 32nd Congress, 1st Session, becoming the first person honored by a funeral ceremony in the Capitol Rotunda. No resolution.

 

 

State Funeral Ceremonial Tradition

The following below has been taken directly from the US  State Funeral National Capitol Region’s website.  It is in list form what it takes and what happens to make a state funeral happy. You can take a look at the entire webpage that has a lot more information at State Funeral Ceremonial Tradition.

The following list identifies the customary elements of a state funeral. 

NOTE: This does not reflect the schedule for every state funeral. Each presidential family tailors the funeral to their wishes. 

  • Formal notification of demise to all branches of government, foreign countries and the public. 
  • Repose in home state 
  • Movement to Washington, D.C. 
  • Repose at the National Cathedral in its Bethlehem Chapel 
  • Casket transfer from hearse to horse-drawn caisson at the intersection of 16th Street and Constitution Avenue in Washington, D.C. 
  • Main funeral procession along Constitution Avenue in Washington, D.C. 
  • Lying in state at the U.S. Capitol 
  • National funeral service in Washington, D.C. 
  • Movement to final resting place 
  • Private funeral service and interment 
 

Explanation of Special Terms 

  • Repose  – The remains lie in one or more selected places for public viewing (e.g. church, presidential library or museum). This also includes appropriate arrival and departure ceremonies. 
  • Lying in state  – The remains lie in the Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol allowing the public to pay their respects. Appropriate arrival and departure ceremonies are included. 

    NOTE: Lying in state occurs in the U.S. Capitol ONLY. 

  • Casket Transfer – At 16th Street and Constitution Avenue, the remains are transferred by Armed Forces body bearers from a hearse to a horse-drawn caisson for movement to the U.S. Capitol to begin or end the main funeral procession. 
  • Main Funeral Procession – Moves along Constitution Avenue. 
  • Composition of Main Funeral Procession (in order of march):
    • Police escort 
    • Military units, including federal service academies, Active Duty, National Guard, Reserve, and military bands 
    • Cortege – the segment of the main funeral procession in a state funeral that includes, in order of march:
      • Special honor guard 
      • Honorary pallbearers 
      • National color 
      • Clergy 
      • Caisson 
      • Armed Forces body bearers 
      • Presidential color 
      • Caparisoned horse 
      • Family 

Information gathered from Army Pamphlet 1-1 and historical documents. 

For more information on state funerals, visit www.jfhqncr.northcom.mil.



George McGinn is an award-winning Pulitzer Prize Finalist reporter and photographer who worked 44+ years in print media in the New York Metropolitan Area, statewide in Florida. He was the photo editor for the Venice Gondolier, covered the crime and courts beat for the North Port and Charlotte Sun newspapers, covering police, fire and EMS. He was also their investigative reporter. McGinn also wrote nationally for The Digital Journal, and photographer for Getty Images and National Geographic. He was awarded Master Photographer by the IFPO and was inducted into the IFPO Photographer’s Hall of Fame. McGinn’s degree is in Computer Science, and is also a science writer and an Astronomer, Cosmologist and researcher. His current work is in Internet of Things (IoT) and writing Apps for mobile devices that interfaces with mainframe systems.

 

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