Crowd Gathers Outside U.S. Capitol to Honor Ford The nation pays its final respects to President Gerald Ford at a funeral service in the Capitol Rotunda today. The former president's body arrived in Washington in the afternoon after a 13-hour public viewing in California on Friday. Debbie Elliott talks to Ari Shapiro about the crowd forming outside the Rotunda this evening.
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Crowd Gathers Outside U.S. Capitol to Honor Ford

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Crowd Gathers Outside U.S. Capitol to Honor Ford

Crowd Gathers Outside U.S. Capitol to Honor Ford

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This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Debbie Elliott.

The casket burying former President Gerald Ford is expected to arrive at Andrews Air Force Base at this hour following two days of honors at his home church in California. Mr. Ford died Tuesday night at the age of 93. This evening, a motorcade will take his casket and the Ford family to the Capitol rotunda for a state funeral. The former president's body will then lie in state there.

NPR's Ari Shapiro is at the Capitol and joins us now. Hello, Ari, what is the scene there?

ARI SHAPIRO: Hi, Debbie. I'm here outside of the Capitol, where people are lined up to view President Ford's casket, which is expected to arrive here at the Capitol around 6:30 p.m. Eastern time.

ELLIOTT: Are there a lot of people there?

SHAPIRO: At this point I would say there a few dozen. There are certainly barriers as far as the eye can see. I passed one barrier that said the estimated wait time from here is two hours. So certainly they are expecting large groups of people. They haven't arrived yet but that maybe because people are allowed to view the casket tomorrow and into the next day.

So those crowds may yet be coming. The people who are here have said that they feel very strongly about President Ford. It's very important to them to be able to pay their last respects to him and they're happy to be able to be part of this historic event.

I'm standing here with one gentleman who traveled from Philadelphia to view President Ford's casket. His name is Richard Bowie(ph). I'd be happy to hand this out to him. I should mention that he is wearing his Eagle Scout uniform. And he's (unintelligible).

RICHARD BOWIE: Good afternoon, Debbie.

ELLIOTT: Hello, Mr. Bowie. Thank you for talking with us. I understand President Ford was an Eagle Scout.

BOWIE: Yes. He's one of the first Eagle Scouts in his home state of Michigan and was also one of the Eagle Scouts to become what's known as a Distinguished Eagle Scout, which is an honor given by the National Eagle Scout Association for 20 years of dedicated service. And Mr. Ford, along with being the former honorary president, was also, up to his death, the honorary vice president.

ELLIOTT: Now, why did you think it was important to come to Washington, D.C. today?

BOWIE: I felt that Mr. Ford realized the American dream. As an Eagle Scout, he pretty much had to serve his community. And he did so as a lawyer, did so as a congressman from Michigan, as House minority leader in the '60s and '70s. And when Mr. Nixon tapped him to become vice president, Mr. Ford gracefully accepted and through just by plain circumstance Mr. Ford achieved the highest office that pretty much any man or woman would dream of.

ELLIOTT: Well, thank you for speaking with us.

BOWIE: Well, thank you.

SHAPIRO: Hi, Debbie.

ELLIOTT: Hi, Ari. Can you fill us in on what the plans are for the funeral this evening?

SHAPIRO: There will be a ceremony in which Vice President Dick Cheney will speak. House Speaker Dennis Hastert and Senator Ted Stevens will also give a speech. There will then be a wreath laying and the casket will remain in the rotunda for the next couple of days for public viewing, until Tuesday, when there will be a funeral service held at the Washington National Cathedral here in D.C. On Wednesday, the remains will go to Grand Rapids, Michigan, which is where President Ford grew up, and was elected to Congress. And that's where he'll be buried on Wednesday evening.

ELLIOTT: NPR's Ari Shapiro at the Capitol. Thank you very much.

SHAPIRO: You're welcome.

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