Officials Prepare for Ford to Lie in State

Washington (AP) - Officials were preparing tentative plans for President Gerald Ford's body to lie in state this weekend and expected a funeral service after New Year's at National Cathedral capping days of mourning in the capital.

U.S. Capitol Police officers said they were told to prepare for Ford's body to come to the Capitol Rotunda on Saturday, and congressional officials who have been briefed on plans said a public viewing would begin after an arrival ceremony. The cathedral service was expected Tuesday.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because the Ford family had not yet signed off on that schedule.

The hallmarks of a presidential state funeral began falling into place a day after the 38th president died at his Rancho Mirage Calif., home, at age 93.

The public was expected to get a first chance to pay respects at a church near Ford's California home, then at the U.S. Capitol and finally in Grand Rapids, Mich., home of his presidential museum and his anticipated place of interment. But funeral plans were not complete.

A senior Republican leadership official said all events related to Ford's funeral in Washington would be finished by Jan. 4, opening day of the 110th Congress, meaning no delay was anticipated in the hand-over of congressional control to Democrats. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because funeral plans were not complete.

Planners are guided by the wishes of the family and any instructions from the president himself on how elaborate the events will be, how much of it takes place in Washington and more. Ford's collegial character and unassuming style in the White House are expected to be reflected in his presidential funeral arrangements.

Ford's presidential museum in Grand Rapids announced that its lobby would be open 24 hours a day starting Wednesday and until further notice, while the rest of the museum would be closed during this period.

What happens in Washington, particularly, unfolds according to guidelines that go back to the mid-1800s and have been shaped here and there over time.

If a chosen ceremony requires mourners to be seated, for example, seating arrangements are detailed with precision. The presidential party is followed by chiefs of state, arranged alphabetically by the English spelling of their countries. Royalty representing chiefs of state come next, and then heads of governments followed by other officials.

Ronald Reagan's state funeral in 2004 was the first of its kind since Lyndon Johnson died in 1973. The president, former presidents and a president-elect are all entitled to a state funeral, but the family decides if they actually get one, or just how involved it will be.

Richard Nixon's family, acting on his wishes, opted out of the Washington traditions when he died in 1994, his presidency shortened and forever tainted by Watergate.

The rules and what actually happens are based on what has come before.

John F. Kennedy's funeral services were modeled after those of Abraham Lincoln, at the request of the new widow, Jacqueline, in her first public statement after the assassination. Historians examined musty documents by flashlight in the middle of the night as the stunned country waited for a plan - the Library of Congress' automatic lights could not be rigged to come on after hours.

Reagan was the 10th president to lay in state in the Capitol Rotunda.

Like the great majority of presidents, Ford served in Congress. Reagan and Jimmy Carter did not.

Eight presidents have had funeral processions down Pennsylvania Avenue, including all four sitting presidents to die by assassination - Lincoln, James Garfield, William McKinley and Kennedy.

Two presidents are buried at Arlington National Cemetery, Kennedy and William H. Taft. Reagan was buried on the hilltop grounds of his presidential library in Simi Valley, Calif., in a dramatic sunset ceremony capping a week of official public mourning.

Only sitting presidents and their immediate family have ever laid in the White House for viewing.

Ex-president John Adams didn't even lay in the White House, though his son, John Quincy Adams, was the sitting president at the time of the death. The older Adams died on the same day as Thomas Jefferson - July 4, 1826 - possibly complicating his chances for a White House viewing.

The Capitol has a more expansive policy for laying in state. Congressman Henry Clay, in 1852, was the first to lay in the Capitol Rotunda. FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover laid in the Capitol in 1972. Police officers killed in 1998 while protecting the Capitol also lay in state there.

The first presidential state funeral was for William H. Harrison, who in 1841 became the first president to die in office, just 30 days after his inauguration. Alexander Hunter, a Washington merchant, was charged with putting on a first-of-its-kind American ceremony.

He draped the White House in black. Official buildings and many private households followed suit, starting a now-lost tradition that was repeated at Lincoln's funeral 25 years later.

Ford museum and library: http://www.ford.utexas.edu/

The Architect of the Capitol: http://www.aoc.gov/

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.


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