The Rotunda of the United States Capitol has long been considered the most suitable place for the nation to pay final tribute to its most eminent citizens.
On Wednesday, February 28, 2018, the late Reverend Billy Graham will be brought to the U.S. Capitol to lie in honor. With this distinction, Graham joins a handful of individuals previously honored in the Capitol Rotunda during its nearly 200-year history.
Rev. Billy Graham giving remarks in the U.S Capitol Rotunda in 1996.
The occasion calls for coordination across the Capitol campus, and the solemnity of the event requires a commitment to excellence to ensure no detail is overlooked.
When the Architect of the Capitol (AOC) is notified that a ceremony will occur, our team begins fabricating a wooden catafalque, a stand to hold the casket. Ceremonial stanchions are cleaned and polished, the floors of the Rotunda are buffed and waxed, stone entrances to the U.S. Capitol Building are power washed, and lamps and other lighting is checked.
The evening before the ceremony, which is hosted by congressional leadership, the AOC installs ceremonial stanchions, chairs, podium and media risers. A viewing queue is established and staffed within the Capitol Visitor Center and tables with condolence books put in place. Electrical and sound requirements are met and tested – including microphones on the podium and event lighting.
Once the casket arrives at the U.S. Capitol, the AOC works with care behind the scenes to ensure the ceremony is successful and seamless to the attendees and the viewing public. Following the formal ceremony, the AOC rearranges the Rotunda to provide the public with an opportunity to pay their respects.
Looking up in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda.
Once the public viewing concludes and the casket is removed from the Rotunda, the AOC reopens the building for public tours.
Lying in Honor (for prominent citizens) or Lying in State (for military or government officials) are historic events and, for many, an important part of the grieving process following the loss of a person who made a significant impact on the country.
It is an incredible honor to prepare the Rotunda for this momentous occasion and know the eyes of the nation and the world will be upon us. We are proud to be a part of history.