Three Presidents’ Funerals

Take a look at these top-tier funerals for some of the most powerful men of our country. In honor of President’s Day, we’ve put together a few of the most notable presidential processions, all pre-planned by the men themselves. One of the first duties of a new commander in chief is to dictate his own funeral service in coordination with the Military’s District of Washington. Every detail is scrupulously laid out and considered by a council of participants, and the president himself signs off on every detail. Talk about pre-planning!

#1 The First Formal Funeral

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William Henry Harrison, 9th president of the United States, died in 1841 of pneumonia just 31 days into his term. Until that time, there was no protocol for the funeral and burial of a president, so the government officials of the time got together to create a fitting farewell for their commander in chief. Modeled after royal funerals and advertised in the local newspaper, Harrison’s home (also known as the White House), was draped in black crepe and dramatically decorated for the occasion. The funeral ceremony was held in the East Wing of the building, and the gathering was small and exclusive. The coffin was then placed on an elaborate processional car and sent down the main streets to the sound of the United States Marine Band.

#2 Abe Assassinated

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Whenever presidential funerals are discussed, Abraham Lincoln’s masterful menagerie comes immediately to mind. The body was carried by an honor guard to its first resting place, The White House, where it was laid, surrounded by mourners, and available for public viewing for one full day. On April 19th the symbolic and stately funaeral service was held and well attended, and then the casket was taken by a horse-drawn carriage down Pennsylvania Avenue to the Capitol Rotunda, where the ceremonial burial was held. Lincoln’s body was not actually buried in D.C., it was taken on a train tour of the country so people all over the nation could pay their respects. The casket was finally laid to rest in Lincoln’s home town of Springfield, Illinois.

#3 Ford’s Final Farewell

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When former president Gerald R. Ford died in 2007, the public’s idea of presidential programs changed forever. Though President Ford resisted the idea of a grand and formal funeral service, his procession was perfectly personal to him and his administration. Ford chose to lie in state in front of the House and the Senate to honor his time serving in both capacities. He also changed the traditional procession protocol and, instead, was taken by motorcade through his hometown of Alexandria, Virginia where his public service began, and passed the World War II memorial to honor his time in the military. These personal touches reflected Ford’s personable nature and the care and planning he put into every decision during his life. His choices to break with tradition really changed how we perceive state funerals, as he made his final statement an intimate farewell.

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