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The State Funeral Commemoration

Jan 9, 2008
The state funeral has been an important, commemorative national event since the death of Benjamin Franklin in 1790, the second of the state funerals given to George Washington in 1799. Many of the founding fathers didn't like the pomp and circumstance of state funerals, as they reflected overtones of British rule, but when a president dies, there must be public mourning.

William Henry Harrison was the first president to die in office, which required a huge ceremony to make it distinct. Washington merchant Alexander Hunter was commissioned to design a powerful funeral that would soothe the nation. In his design, Hunter draped the White House in black ribbon and had an upholstered black and white carriage transport the body.

Looking back in history, it was Abraham Lincoln's funeral in 1865 that really set the precedent for elaborate ceremonies. His remains lie in state in the rotunda of the Capitol. He was soon followed by 11 other presidents: James Garfield (1881), William McKinley (1901), Warren Harding (1923), William Howard Taft (1930), John F Kennedy (1963), Herbert Hoover (1964), Dwight Eisenhower (1969), Lyndon Johnson (1973), Ronald Reagan (2004) and Gerald Ford (2006).

The funeral procession is an important custom, starting at the White House and traveling to the US Capitol, down Constitution Avenue and Pennsylvania Avenue. Traditionally, there are six horses of the same breed and color, three riders and a section chief mounted on a fourth horse from the Old Guard Caisson Platoon.

The coffin is often followed by a rider-less horse to represent a fallen leader. Military bands lead each unit - the National Guard, active-duty, academy and reserve forces - as they participate in the funeral procession.

A state funeral includes memorial services led by the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of the Army that are often held at the Washington National Cathedral, where foreign dignitaries, heads of state, princes, dukes, heads of government, prime ministers, premiers, generals and other officials may attend. There is usually a viewing and a service offered at the Rotunda of the Capitol, with members of Congress in attendance. The public is invited to pay their last respects at the Rotunda, under the vigilance of honor guards.

A state funeral or presidential gravesite may attract visitors from all around the world and all across the nation. Some ceremonies and viewings have seen hundreds of thousands all the way up to two million visitors! Most presidents found their final resting place in their home states.

JFK and Taft are the only two presidents lying in Arlington National Cemetery. Virginia houses a big collection of presidents -- Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe and Tyler. Also, there are many presidents in Ohio - Harrison, Hayes, Garfield, McKinley and Harding. NY holds Van Buren, Fillmore, Arthur and both Roosevelts.
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Learn more about the state funeral at Mike Selvon portal. While you are there leave is a comment at our traditional funerals blog, and receive your FREE gift.
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