Must Reads

'Lying In Repose' vs. 'Lying In State' vs. 'Lying In Honor.' What's The Difference?

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.)



Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

NPR thanks our sponsors

Become an NPR sponsor

Support comes from