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George H.W. Bush funeral: What is a state funeral and will Bush have one?

Update, 2:30 p.m.:  Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) have announced that the late President George H.W. Bush will lie in state in the United States Capitol Rotunda.  

A bicameral arrival ceremony will be held for President Bush on Monday at 5 p.m. ET. The public is invited to pay their respects from Monday at 7:30 p.m. ET until Wednesday at 7 a.m. ET.

Original story:

Hours after the death of former president George H.W. Bush, the specific details of his funeral are still being finalized. 

The one thing that is known is that Bush’s funeral will be a “state funeral.” 

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What is a state funeral and how does it work? 

Here, from the Joint Task Force National Capital Region, is an overview of a state funeral:

1. What is a state funeral?

A state funeral is a category used by the Department of Defense to describe the type of funeral conducted to honor a president, a former president, a president-elect, or any other person specifically designated by the president.  

2. What does a state funeral consist of?

State funeral ceremonies normally happen in three stages:

Stage I includes ceremonies within the state in which the president, former president, or president-elect lived. For Bush, that is Texas. 

These arrangements generally consist of an arrival ceremony at a church or presidential library where the president’s body will lie in repose, as well as a  departure ceremony from the church or library and a departure ceremony from a military or civilian airfield on the way to Washington, D.C. 

Stage II includes several ceremonial elements within the Washington, D.C., region. They generally include an arrival ceremony at Andrews Air Force Base; an arrival ceremony, repose and departure ceremony at Bethlehem Chapel; the main funeral procession on Constitution Avenue with representation from each of the military services and a U.S. Air Force 21-ship flyover; an arrival ceremony, service, lying in state and a departure ceremony at the U.S. Capitol; an arrival ceremony, funeral service and departure ceremony at Washington National Cathedral, and a departure ceremony from Andrews Air Force Base. 

Stage III may include an arrival ceremony at a military or civilian airfield, church service, repose and interment.  

3. What federal law or executive order authorizes state funerals for U.S. presidents?

A presidential proclamation directs the Department of Defense to conduct a state funeral on the nation’s behalf. Authorized personnel include the president, a former president, the president-elect or any other person specifically designated by the president of the United States. 

4. Who was the first president to receive a state funeral?

Abraham Lincoln was the first president to receive a funeral that was considered a “national funeral” with services taking place in Washington D.C. and other cities. He was buried in Illinois.

5. When was the last state funeral?

The last state funeral was held for President Gerald R. Ford in January 2007. Within the last 50 years, there have been seven state funerals for former presidents of the United States. In addition, President Reagan directed a state funeral for the Vietnam Unknown Soldier on Memorial Day, May 28, 1984.  

6. When is the National Day of Mourning generally held?

The day of the national funeral service in Washington, D.C., is generally observed as the National Day of Mourning. Trump has announced that Wednesday will be the official National Day of Mourning for former President Bush.

7. Are first ladies eligible for a state funeral?

No first lady has ever been authorized for a state funeral.

This information is from the Joint Task Force National Capital Region and has been edited.

FILE - In this June 12, 2012 file photo, former President George H.W. Bush, and his wife, former first lady Barbara Bush, arrive for the premiere of HBO's new documentary on his life near the family compound in Kennebunkport, Maine. Bush has died at age 94. Family spokesman Jim McGrath says Bush died shortly after 10 p.m. Friday, Nov. 30, 2018, about eight months after the death of his wife, Barbara Bush. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa, File)

 

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