RECENT MOURNING OBSERVATIONS AT THE WHITE HOUSE
A state funeral was scheduled for former President Ronald W. Reagan, June 9-11, 2004, based on the ceremonies observed in 1973 for former President Lyndon B. Johnson. This included a procession with the casket on a horse-drawn caisson to the U.S. Capitol, where the body lay in state, and a service at the Washington National Cathedral. In addition to flying the flag at half-staff, the 30-day mourning period was marked at the White House by the draping of black cloth across the top of the frame of President Reagan’s portrait, which continues to hang on the north wall of the Cross Hall outside of the State Dining Room.
The preceding presidential funeral was held ten years ago in 1994. The funeral of former President Richard M.. Nixon in 1994 was held at the Nixon Library in California, an event attended by President and Mrs. William J. Clinton, as well as former Presidents Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, and George Bush and their wives. There was no state funeral in Washington. To mark the 30-day mourning period, former President Nixon’s portrait was removed from its place on the Grand Staircase and hung in the Cross Hall, on the north wall outside the State Dining Room (April 25-May 24), a location visible to White House visitors and coincidentally the same location where President Reagan’s portrait hangs today. The top of that frame also was draped with black cloth.
TWO FIRST LADIES 1993-1994
On the deaths of former First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis in 1994 and former First Lady Patricia Ryan Nixon in 1993, the 30-day mourning periods were marked at the White House by moving the portrait of each from the Vermeil Room to the east end of the Ground Floor Corridor, a location more readily visible to White House visitors. A floral arrangement and a tent card inscribed, “IN MEMORIUM”, were placed on the pier table beneath each portrait in turn.
The last state funeral held in Washington was for former president Lyndon B. Johnson in January 1973, followed by burial at his Texas ranch. Other than flying the flag at half-staff for 30 days, no mourning activities were held at the White House. For two days, this mourning period overlapped that of former President Harry S. Truman, who died on December 26, 1972; his funeral services were held only at the Truman Library in Independence, Missouri.
TWO FIRST LADIES, 1979 AND 1982
No mourning activities were held at the White House for former First Ladies Mamie Eisenhower (1979) or Bess Truman (1982). At that time, their portraits were hanging in the Lobby of the East Wing, where they were readily viewed by White House visitors.
1973 STATE FUNERAL FOR FORMER PRESIDENT LYNDON B. JOHNSON
After President Johnson’s death on January 22, 1973, a public viewing of his flag-draped casket was held at the Johnson Library in Austin overnight January 23-24. On January 24, the casket and the Johnson family were brought to Washington on one of the presidential planes used as Air Force One that had been dispatched by President Nixon. The casket was brought from Andrews Air Force Base to Constitution Avenue south of the White House for transfer to a horse-drawn caisson. A slow march to the U.S. Capitol included an Air Force flyover. After a service at the Capitol, the President lay in state for public viewing until 8 AM on January 25. The Johnson family accepted President Nixon’s invitation to stay at the Blair House overnight. On January 25, a national day of mourning as proclaimed by President Nixon with all but essential federal government agencies closed, the casket was taken by motorcade to National City Christian Church for a service attended by President and Mrs. Nixon. After a return flight on the presidential plane, final rites were held that afternoon at the Johnson Ranch. Prepared by the Office of the Curator, The White House