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Robert Byrd Memorial: Will Longest-Serving Senator Be Honored In Capitol?

First Posted: 06/28/10 07:58 PM ET Updated: 05/25/11 05:55 PM ET

Ford Memorial Service

After Sen. Robert Byrd's death at age 92 on Monday, speculation began about plans for his memorial service, including rumors that the Senate's longest-serving member might lay in state in the Capitol rotunda or even on the Senate floor.

ABC's Jonathan Karl reports on prospects for the second option:

"If they family wants it, we'll do it," a Senate sources tells ABC News.


It hasn't happened for a half century, but there is ample precedent for such a move. The last Senator to lie in state was North Dakota Republican William "Wild Bill" Langer, a staunch anti-communist who was one of just two Senators to vote against the United Nations charter. Senator Byrd would almost certainly have attended Langer's memorial on the Senate floor; he was a freshman Senator at the time.

Another possibility is that Byrd's remains will lie in state beneath the Capitol rotunda:

"Senate leaders are likely to make a request for Byrd to lie in state, aides said Monday, but they are still awaiting approval from Byrd's family to go ahead with a formal resolution that would allow Byrd's casket to rest under the dome for a public viewing.


With a career that spanned nearly 58 years and ranked him as the longest-serving member in congressional history, Byrd has likely earned the consideration."

Other big names who have been honored in the Rotunda include Presidents James Garfield, Herbert Hoover, Dwight Eisenhower, Lyndon Johnson, architect Pierre Charles L'Enfant, and civil rights activist Rosa Parks, to name a few.

Typically, the Senate and the House must pass a joint resolution in order to grant approval for someone to lay in state. However, the Senate Majority Leader and the Speaker of the House may also approve this honor.

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Filed by Erin Booth  |