What It Means to Lie in State or Honor

Members of the public will be able to pay their final respects to Senator and war hero John McCain this week, as he will lie in state in the Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol, a rare and distinguished honor given to few prominent citizens before him.

According to the Architect of the Capitol, such an occasion is either authorized by a congressional resolution or approved by the congressional leadership, when permission is granted by survivors. Lying in state is a tribute for government officials and military officers, while lying in honor is a distinction reserved for private citizens.

The practice of lying in state began in 1852, with the death of Kentucky senator, Henry Clay. Since the death of President Abraham Lincoln three years later, services for those who are laid in state have used the catafalque constructed for his coffin. Civil rights leader, Rosa Parks, is the only female to have lain in either state or honor.

Americans who wish to pay their respects to Senator McCain, without traveling to the Capitol Rotunda can do so by flying their flag at half-staff or displaying a mourning bow on a short-staff pole when a flag is unable to be lowered.

Below is a complete list of those who have lain in state or in honor at the Capitol Rotunda:

Billy Graham: February 28-March 1, 2018

Daniel K. Inouye: December 20, 2012

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

Rosa Parks: October 30-31, 2005

Ronald W. Reagan: June 9-11, 2004

Jacob Joseph Chestnut and John Michael Gibson: July 28, 1998

Claude Denson Pepper: June 1-2, 1989

Unknown Soldier of the Vietnam Era: May 25-28, 1984

Hubert H. Humphrey: January 14-15, 1978

Lyndon Baines Johnson: January 24-25, 1973

Edgar Hoover: May 3-4, 1972

Everett McKinley Dirksen: September 9-10, 1969

Dwight D. Eisenhower: March 30-31, 1969

Herbert Clark Hoover: October 23-25, 1964

Douglas MacArthur: April 8-9, 1964

John F. Kennedy: November 24-25, 1963

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

Robert A. Taft: August 2-3, 1953

John Joseph Pershing: July 18-19, 1948

William Howard Taft: March 11, 1930

Warren G. Harding: August 8, 1923

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

George Dewey: January 20, 1917

Pierre Charles L’Enfant: April 28, 1909

William McKinley, Jr.: September 17, 1901

John A. Logan: December 30-31, 1886

James A. Garfield: September 21-23, 1881

Henry Wilson: November 25-26, 1875

Charles Sumner: March 13, 1874

Thaddeus Stevens: August 13-14, 1868

Abraham Lincoln: April 19-21, 1865

Henry Clay: July 1, 1852

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