Today, the body of Ruth Bader Ginsburg lay in state in the U.S. Capitol. She was the first woman and the first Jew given this honor.
The bodies of the dead have been honored by being placed in at least three rooms of the U.S. Capitol: the Capitol Rotunda, Statuary Hall, and the Senate Chamber.
They have also been given three different grades of distinction. Government officials who have died in office and other figures given the highest honor have lay “in state.” Thirty-three persons, that I know of, have been given this honor in the the Rotunda of the Capitol.
At least four other bodies have been honored in the Capitol Rotunda, but with the lesser distinction of resting “in honor.” They are the U.S. Capitol police officers Jacob Chestnut and John Gibson, the civil rights activist Rosa Parks, and the evangelist Billy Graham.
Some others, including Robert C. Byrd and Frank Lautenberg have rested “in repose” in another part of the Capitol. In the case of these senators, this was the chamber of the U.S. Senate.
Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court Ruth Bader Ginsburg was honored by lying in state in Statuary Hall (the old U.S. House of Representatives chamber). To the best of my knowledge she was:
* the first woman to have lain in state
* the first Jew to have lain in state
* the first person to lay in have lain in state, honor, or repose Statuary Hall
* the first person to have lain in state in Statuary Hall
* the second Jew whose dead body was honored in the U.S. Capitol
* the second woman whose dead body was honored in the U.S. Capitol
* the second member of the U.S. Supreme Court whose dead body was honored in the U.S. Capitol
While that may seem a bit blunt and precise, it is a symptom of the current fractured political climate. The firsts who proceeded Ginsburg in honor follow: Senator Frank Lautenbuerg of New Jersey was a Jew and his body lay in repose in the U.S. Senate Chamber. Rosa Parks was a woman and lay in repose in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda. President William H. Taft was Chief Justice of the United States and his body lay in state in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda.
I hope that the next time a portion of the American people want to honor the dead with “lying in state” both houses of Congress can agree to it and it can take place in the Rotunda.
I’ll gladly accept any corrections to the facts or grammar of this post.