By David Gura

On Thursday and Friday, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA) will "lie in repose" at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Dorchester, Mass. He will not lie in state there. (Earlier today, NPR's managing editor warned us against confusing the two.)

So, what's the difference?

I asked Donald A. Ritchie, an associate historian in the Senate Historical Office.

According to him, when a member of government dies, if his casket is on display in a government building -- including the Capitol -- he lies in state. If his casket is in any other building, he lies in repose. If the person is not a member of government, he lies in honor.

Ritchie said he doesn't know if congressional leadership extended an invitation to Kennedy's family for the senator to lie in state in the Capitol rotunda. There was speculation that he might.

Ultimately, if there is an invitation, the deceased person's family makes the final decision, he said. (When Harry S Truman died, for instance, his body didn't lie in state in the Capitol because his wife didn't want to travel to Washington.)

categories: History

6:44 - August 26, 2009