Billy Graham's body heading to Washington for a very rare honor

Wednesday, February 28, 2018 09:58AM
The Rev. Billy Graham will join a very select group of notable Americans to lie in honor at the U.S. Capitol.


When Billy Graham's body arrives in Washington from Charlotte by private jet on Wednesday morning, the revered evangelist will join a very select group of notable Americans to lie in honor at the U.S. Capitol.

The list is a short one; Abraham Lincoln, John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan have been bestowed the honor of lying in state in the Capitol rotunda. Eleven presidents in all - just 33 Americans in the nation's history.

And on Wednesday, the Rev. Billy Graham becomes just the fourth private citizen.

"(This is a big deal), I mean four people in history have done that," said David McLennan, political science professor at Raleigh's Meredith College.

McLennan has been a student of Graham's outsized influence on politics -- meeting and counseling American presidents from Truman to Trump -- through scandals and war - all while crusading throughout the nation and world with his faith.



McLennan was not surprised by the rare honor that Graham's body will receive in the Capitol rotunda.

"We don't keep it in reserve for just anyone," he said. "It is the largest names, the most prominent Americans who have had influence over the years in this country."

Back in Charlotte, at Graham's boyhood home, another president arrived Tuesday to pay his respects. Bill Clinton viewed the casket, a day after his successor, George W. Bush, did the same.

"I think he was a profoundly good man who conveyed simple beliefs," Clinton said in remarks outside the Graham Family Homeplace.

Tuesday afternoon, business on the floor of the House of Representatives came to halt as members of Congress from across the country paid tribute to Graham.

Wednesday, the nation gets its chance.

"It's hard to draw a parallel, almost like a pope. When a pope passes and the millions of people that turn out in St. Peter's square. This is that kind of turnout," McLennan said.

Graham's body will lie in honor in the U.S. Capitol rotunda beginning at 1 p.m. Wednesday, following a special ceremony with both houses of Congress. The rotunda will be open to the public until 8 p.m. Wednesday and then again on Thursday until 10 a.m.
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