Now You Know

“Lying In State”

Congressman John Lewis to “lie in state” at the U.S. Capitol.
Here’s a look at this unique honor.

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Why It Matters

Royal tradition adopted in the U.S. Started with Sec. of State Henry Clay in 1852. Today, the decision to bestow the honor is made by Congress.

11 U.S Presidents have lain in state: Ford, Reagan, Johnson, Eisenhower, Hoover, Kennedy, Taft, Harding, McKinley, Garfield, & Lincoln.

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Shared Support

  • Catafalque: a frame that supports a coffin (cat-e-falk).
  • Pres. Lincoln’s catafalque from 1865 has held most of the coffins that have lain in state.
  • The catafalque has had minor restorations since 1865 (retrofitted to hold larger coffins, drapery replaced), but for the most part, it remains like the original.
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“In State” vs. “In Honor”

Average citizens cannot “lie in state” as that honor is reserved for gov’t & military officials.

However, eminent private citizens may “lie in honor.”

To date, only four have received the honor — including two police officers killed during an attack on the U.S. Capitol & Rev. Billy Graham.

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In 2005, civil rights activist Rosa Parks became the first (and only) woman to "lie in honor" in the U.S. Capitol. Congressman Lewis, who passed last week, is only the second African-American lawmaker to receive this honor after Congressman Elijah Cummings in October.

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