July 1st, 2010
11:06 AM ET
4 years ago

Washington mourns loss of veteran legislator

ALT TEXT

An honor guard carries the body of the late Sen. Robert Byrd into the Capitol. (PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images)

Washington (CNN) - The body of Sen. Robert C. Byrd arrived at the Capitol on Thursday, a rare honor for a man who rose from the poverty of Depression-era West Virginia to become the longest-serving member of Congress in history.

Byrd, who died Monday at the age of 92, will lie in repose in the Senate chamber until 3:45 p.m. ET Thursday. His body will be transported to Charleston, West Virginia, Thursday evening, where it will remain at the state capitol overnight.

Byrd will be buried Tuesday at Arlington National Cemetery outside Washington.

After the jump, read a list of all 20th century funerals held in the Senate Chamber.

Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton are among the dignitaries expected to pay their respects to Byrd on Capitol Hill Thursday. While in the Senate, his casket will be displayed on the same catafalque used for Abraham Lincoln, John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan and Thurgood Marshall, among others.

Since World War II, according to the Senate historian's office, only two senators have lain in repose in the Senate chamber: Wisconsin's Joe McCarthy in 1957 and North Dakota's William Langer in 1959.

President Barack Obama has ordered flags on federal buildings to fly at half-staff until next week's burial, except for Independence Day. A
proclamation issued by Obama said the order was given "as a mark of respect for (Byrd's) memory and long-standing service."

Byrd, a nine-term Democrat, was known as a master of the Senate's arcane rules and as the self-proclaimed "champion of the Constitution," a staunch defender of congressional power.

His speeches were laced with references to poetry and the Greek and Roman classics, often punctuated by the brandishing of his pocket copy of the national charter.

He also was known as the "King of Pork," using powerful positions in Congress to steer federal spending to his home state - one of the nation's poorest.

Byrd viewed the title as a badge of honor.

"I have no apology for it," he once said. "When I am dead and am opened they will find West Virginia written on my heart."

The U.S. Senate Historical Office compiled for CNN a list of 20th century funerals held in the Senate Chamber. According to the historical office, at least 45 funerals have been held in the Chamber.

Hanna, Marcus A.                  Ohio                                 February 17, 1904
Bate, William B.                     Tennessee                       March 10, 1905
Bacon, Augustus O.               Georgia                            February 17, 1914
Burton, Theodore E.             Ohio                                 October 30, 1929
Warren, Francis E.                Wyoming                        November 26, l929
Overman, Lee S.                    North Carolina               December 12, 1930
Harris, William J.                  Georgia                           April 20, 1932
Walsh, Thomas J.                  Montana                         March 6, 1933
Robinson, Joseph T.             Arkansas                         July 16, 1937
Lewis, J. Hamilton                Illinois                             April 12, 1939
Swanson, Claude A.[1]          Virginia                           July 10, 1939
Borah, William E.                  Idaho                               January 22, 1940
Sheppard, Morris                  Texas                                April 10, 1941
Harrison, Byron P. (Pat)      Mississippi                      June 23, 1941
McCarthy, Joseph R.            Wisconsin                        May 6, 1957
Langer, William[2]               North Dakota                  November 10, 1959

[1]Secretary of the navy at the time of his death.

[2]Following lying in state ceremony in chamber, there was a short service in the Senate Reception Room.


Filed under: Robert Byrd • Senate
soundoff (2 Responses)
  1. Anonymous

    A very sad day for all West Virginians as well as the rest of the country. Wish we had more Senators like Byrd. A dying breed.

    July 1, 2010 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  2. kimberly

    What a COOL picture! I am going to print it, it is very dramatic...RIP Senator Byrd and thank you for your service.

    July 1, 2010 11:35 am at 11:35 am |