YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Nixon Eulogized as a National Day of Mourning Is Set : Presidency: Clinton recalls 37th President's tenacity and 'stunning victories' as he declares Wednesday a time of grieving. Plans for Yorba Linda rites are under way.


WASHINGTON — In a testament to the healing power of time, America on Saturday presented Richard Nixon with a garland of eulogies from old friends and rivals, chiefs of state and average citizens, who remembered the 37th President in terms far more fond than those heard during his stormy political career.

President Clinton declared the day of Nixon's funeral, Wednesday, "a national day of mourning," and encouraged Americans to assemble "in their respective places of worship to pay homage" to Nixon's memory. He also ordered the U.S. flag to be flown at half-staff at all federal buildings, including overseas embassies, for the next 30 days.

There was even what seemed to be a final statement of sorts from Nixon himself: The former President's family declined to have his body lie in state in the Capitol Rotunda in Washington before the funeral service at the Richard Nixon Library & Birthplace in Yorba Linda, Calif.

Unaware of the family's preference, the White House and Congress had been quietly preparing for the ceremony, cleaning the pine platform that had been built for the casket of Abraham Lincoln.

Outpourings of goodwill and grief--many offered by average citizens in calls to radio and television stations--seemed to signal the success of Nixon's final campaign: He spent the last two decades of his life trying to rehabilitate his reputation by writing, giving speeches, making foreign trips and offering private advice to those who followed him as chief executive.

"Leaders in statecraft and students of international affairs will long look for guidance to President Nixon's tremendous accomplishments," Clinton said in his proclamation. "He suffered defeats that would have ended most political careers, yet he won stunning victories that many of the world's most popular leaders failed to attain."

The final arrangements for Nixon's funeral, which the family is coordinating with the White House, were still in flux Saturday.

The Yorba Linda site will hold up to 1,800 people, officials said, and the Nixon family has requested that the White House handle much of the planning for the press and invited guests.

At the family's request, Clinton will give one of several eulogies during the service. Others will be delivered by Senate Minority Leader Bob Dole of Kansas, Gov. Pete Wilson and former Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger. The funeral will be officiated by the Rev. Billy Graham.

Former Presidents Gerald R. Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan and George Bush are planning to attend, according to the White House.

In keeping with protocol, the State Department sent invitations to Nixon's funeral to all heads of state, but officials said they did not expect to hear back from most of them until Monday.

White House officials said they received indications earlier in the week that Nixon might not want to lie in state in Washington. But they were not told of the family's final decision until after he died Friday of complications related to a stroke he suffered Monday.

"We were keeping our options open," said a White House official involved in planning with the Nixon family.

Indeed, the Capitol's black-velvet-draped catafalque, which has held the coffins of nine presidents, was given a thorough cleaning. The Capitol staff, meanwhile, were hurriedly reviewing the ceremonial procedures they assumed they would be observing.

The catafalque, a pine platform built for Lincoln's casket, is stored in the tomb that was built to hold the body of George Washington, two floors below the center of the Rotunda. Washington was instead buried at his Mt. Vernon home, and the Capitol tomb was never used.

Many presidents or former presidents have not lain in state, but the practice has become more customary over the years. The caskets of Lincoln, Garfield, McKinley, Harding, Taft, Kennedy, Hoover, Eisenhower and Johnson were placed there for public viewing.

Other dignitaries have lain in the Rotunda as well, including FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover and the man Nixon defeated in 1968 to become President: Hubert H. Humphrey.

Former Nixon aide David Gergen, now a top adviser to Clinton, speculated that Nixon might have chosen to forgo tradition because he "often thought Congress had tormented him."

"I just think he sort of wanted to fade away and go back to Yorba Linda," Gergen said.

Years earlier, Nixon had given up his Secret Service protection. "He didn't want a lot of the trappings of power," Gergen said.

Nixon's death elicited words of sympathy and compassion from many of the prominent figures of his time: "Past differences are now history. I wish him God's care and peace," said Connecticut Gov. Lowell P. Weicker Jr., who as a freshman senator was an outspoken critic on the congressional committee that investigated the Watergate scandal that drove Nixon from office.

Los Angeles Times Articles