The Rev. Billy Graham will join a select pantheon of notable Americans this week when his body lies in honor at the U.S. Capitol. It’s an honor accorded to only 33 Americans – 11 of whom were presidents.
Graham will be the first religious leader so honored and the first private citizen since Rosa Parks died in 2005.
Graham’s body will lie in the Capitol rotunda Wednesday and Thursday so the public can pay their respects. Graham died Wednesday morning at his home in Montreat at the age of 99.
House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will lead a memorial service once Graham’s casket arrives, according to the Washington Post.
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“As soaring a figure as he was, Rev. Graham connected with people on an elemental level,” Ryan said in a statement last week. “He set a tone of ecumenical inclusion, advocated civil rights, and refused to accept the segregation of those attending his crusades.”
Before going to Washington, Graham’s body is lying in repose at the Graham Family Homeplace at the Billy Graham Library until 10 p.m. Tuesday.
Graham’s funeral service is scheduled for Friday.
Graham joins a list of celebrated Americans accorded the honor of lying in the Capitol.
The last person to lie in state at the Capitol was Hawaii’s Daniel Inouye, a U.S. senator and Congressional Medal of Honor recipient in 2012.
Henry Clay was the first American to lie in state at the Capitol in 1852. Abraham Lincoln was the next, in 1865. He was the first of 11 presidents that ended with Gerald Ford in 2006.
Perhaps the largest number of people who filed through the rotunda to pay their respects was in 1963, when an estimated 250,000 people viewed the casket of John F. Kennedy.
According to the U.S. Capitol Historical Society, the rotunda remained open all night. People queued up for 18 hours in a line that stretched 40 blocks.
The term lying “in honor” dates from 1998, when two Capitol police officers were killed in the line of duty. Graham will be only the fourth private citizen to lie in honor.
“It is an honor because it is not something that is bestowed on many people,” said Kate Scott of the Senate historian’s office. “Generally it’s an honor reserved for elected officials or high profile (citizens). I think that tells you something about Billy Graham’s significance in our national history.”
A pantheon of prominent Americans
Rev. Billy Graham will be the 34th American to lie in the Capitol rotunda. Here are the others:
▪ Sen. U.S. Henry Clay, 1852
▪ Abraham Lincoln, 1865
▪ Rep. Thaddeus Stevens, 1868
▪ Sen. Charles Sumner, 1874
▪ Vice President Henry Wilson, 1875
▪ James A. Garfield, 1881
▪ Sen. John A. Logan, 1886
▪ William McKinley, 1901
▪ Washington D.C. planner Pierre L'Enfant, (reinterment), 1909
▪ Admiral George Dewey, 1917
▪ Unknown Soldier of World War I, 1921
▪ Warren G. Harding, 1923
▪ William Howard Taft, 1930
▪ General John Joseph Pershing, 1948
▪ Sen. Robert A. Taft, 1953
▪ Unknown Soldiers of World War II and the Korean War, 1958
▪ John F. Kennedy, 1963
▪ General Douglas MacArthur, 1964
▪ Herbert Hoover, 1964
▪ Dwight Eisenhower, 1969
▪ Sen. Everett Dirksen, 1969
▪ FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, 1972
▪ Lyndon Johnson, 1973 President,
▪ Hubert Humphrey, 1978
▪ Unknown Soldier of the Vietnam Conflict, 1984
▪ Sen. Claude Pepper, 1989
▪ Capitol police officers, Jacob Chestnut and John Gibson, 1998
▪ Ronald Reagan, 2004
▪ Civil Rights pioneer Rosa Parks, 2005
▪ Gerald Ford, 2006
▪ Sen. Daniel Inouye, 2012