The Reverend Billy Graham Lying in Honor

On my daily lunchtime bike ride today I rode to the U.S. Capitol Building, where the Reverend Billy Graham, who passed away a week ago today at the age of 99, is lying in honor.  Lying in honor is reserved only for private citizens, who are given the honor of having their casket placed in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda for public viewing. Including Billy Graham, only four private citizens have been given this honor. The first citizens to be given the honor are U.S. Capitol Police Officers Jacob Chestnut and John Gibson, who were killed in the line of duty during a shootout in the Capitol Building in 1998.  Civil rights icon Rosa Parks also lied in state after her death in 2005.  The Reverend Graham is the fourth, and the only religious leader in history to be given the honor.

Prior to lying in honor in the Capitol Building, the Reverend Graham lay in repose on yesterday and the day before at the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte North Carolina. Thousands visited and paid the evangelist their respects.  Lying in repose is actually different from lying in honor or lying in state.  Lying in repose typically refers to when the casket of someone of high stature can be publicly viewed in a building other than the Rotunda, so the public can pay their respects.

There are no official rules that dictate who can lie in state or who can lie in honor, except that customarily only government officials can lie in state, versus private citizens who can lie in honor. The casket is typically guarded by the U.S. Capitol Police. The decision to grant this honor is made by a concurrent resolution of the House and Senate, and can be granted to anyone, with the family’s approval, who has given distinguished service to the nation.

I made sure to get there early, even before the viewing was open to the public.  Unfortunately, the line of people already there and waiting to file by and pay their respects was prohibitive for someone who had only their lunch hour before having to go back to work.  Despite getting there approximately an hour and a half early, there were already thousands of people in a line that stretched from the building out to the street, and then the equivalent of another eight city blocks.  So as I left, I couldn’t help but think that the line of people, in and of itself, would seem to serve as a testament to the respect so many people had for the great man who came to be known as “America’s Pastor”, and his service to our country, the world, and God.

         

    
[Click on the photos to view the full-size versions]

 

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