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A State Funeral With History and Tradition

The coffin will rest in the nation's Capitol for two days. After a service Friday, Reagan's body will be flown back to California for burial.

June 07, 2004|Judy Pasternak | Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — The nation's capital is preparing to honor the 40th U.S. president with a state funeral, an intricately choreographed 45 hours and 45 minutes filled with tradition -- including a horse-drawn caisson in a procession from the Ellipse to the Capitol, where the body of Ronald Wilson Reagan will lie in state in the Rotunda.

President Bush and his father, who served as Reagan's vice president before winning the White House himself, are expected to speak at the funeral Friday at the Washington National Cathedral, said Sheila Tate, a longtime family friend who helped develop the plans. The state funeral will be the first here in 30 years.

Reagan and his wife, Nancy, began designing his funeral in 1981, after he took office, as is traditional for presidents, said Joanne Drake, chief of staff at his Los Angeles office. A small group of family friends have met in Washington every year since then to update the arrangements -- taking into account Reagan's return to California in 1989 and the opening of the Reagan Presidential Library and Museum in Simi Valley, among other factors.

Reagan always wanted his last rituals to take place in both California, where he launched his movie and political careers, and in Washington, where he served two terms as president, Drake told reporters Sunday in Santa Monica.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Tuesday June 08, 2004 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 54 words Type of Material: Correction
Reagan funeral -- An article in Monday's Section A described former President Reagan's upcoming services as the nation's first state funeral in 30 years. It will be the first state funeral for a president in more than 30 years; in 1984, Reagan ordered a state funeral for the Vietnam Unknown at Arlington National Cemetery.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Thursday June 10, 2004 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 39 words Type of Material: Correction
Funeral home name -- Articles Sunday through Tuesday in Section A about memorial events for Ronald Reagan referred to the Kingsley & Gates, Moller & Murphy Funeral Home. It is the Gates Kingsley & Gates Moeller Murphy Funeral Home.

Despite the well-laid plans, health considerations and the timing of the G-8 summit of world leaders in Georgia made changes necessary. For example, Drake said, the Rev. Billy Graham, who ministered to many presidents, was to be involved but has been hospitalized and will be unable to attend.

The gathering of world leaders for economic talks Tuesday through Thursday at Sea Island, Ga., extended the visitation in Simi Valley for a day longer than originally envisioned.

House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) said Sunday that Congress would pass a resolution Tuesday to allow Reagan's body to lie in state at the Capitol.

Reagan's flag-draped coffin is scheduled to arrive in a military jet at Andrews Air Force Base at 5 p.m. EDT (2 p.m. PDT) Wednesday. An hour later, near the Ellipse, in back of the White House, the Army's Washington Military District plans to transfer the casket from a hearse to the horse-drawn caisson for the formal procession to the Capitol.

After a lying-in-state ceremony, Reagan's coffin will rest in the Rotunda for public viewing from 8:30 p.m. through the night. The public will also be able to pay their respects Thursday.

The last president to lie in state at the Capitol was Lyndon B. Johnson in 1973. The family of Richard Nixon, who died in 1994, declined the honor.

The Capitol departure ceremony is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. EDT (7:30 a.m. PDT) Friday, and the casket will then travel to the National Cathedral. Former Missouri Sen. John C. Danforth, an Episcopal priest who was recently nominated as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, will lead the service, which begins at 11:30 a.m. EDT (8:30 a.m. PDT).

Drake said the honorary pallbearers in Washington, as in California, will be Frederick J. Ryan Jr., chairman of the board of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation; entertainer-businessman Merv Griffin; Michael K. Deaver, a key Reagan White House aide; Charles Wick, a movie-industry investor; and John Hutton, a physician who cared for Reagan while he was in the White House.

Because of the number of dignitaries expected, the Secret Service will be in charge of security. Motorcades will vary speeds intentionally. Drivers should expect traffic delays, said Lt. Ohene Gyapong, a spokesman for the U.S. Army's Military District of Washington, which conducts state ceremonies for presidents.

The White House announced Sunday night that government offices, except for those essential for national security, would be closed Friday.

A law enforcement meeting today is expected to determine how large a crowd will be accommodated along the motorcade and procession routes, and what restrictions will be in place.

Within the limestone and stained-glass walls of the cathedral, an invitation-only crowd is expected to include current and former heads of state, from the United States and abroad, and other luminaries. The cathedral can seat more than 3,000. "Every seat will be filled," said Tate, a former press secretary to Nancy Reagan.

The Reagans picked the music and the speakers. "They were both involved," Tate said.

The plans were fine-tuned in recent years in a series of meetings in Washington attended by Ryan, Deaver, Tate and Robert Higdon, a family friend.

"Some of it was advance work, just getting phone numbers," Tate said.

In the end, the Washington events are largely prescribed by history and tradition. For all the fusillades, flags and trumpets, "the personal part is the burial," Tate said.

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