Sen. Robert Byrd left the Senate chamber for the last time Thursday, after lying in state for six hours as former staff and colleagues paid their respects to the West Virginia Democrat, who died Monday at 92.
Solemn family members and curious public observers watched as an honor guard carried the flag-draped coffin down the Senate steps and into a black hearse. The hearse was to travel to Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland, where a plane was set to carry Byrd’s body to Charleston, W.Va. His body will lie in state in West Virginia’s Capitol until Friday morning, followed by a celebration of life.
Byrd’s day of remembrance in the Senate, where he served for 51 years, was quiet and fiercely private. Family members and Senators joined Chaplain Barry Black for a private prayer in the morning. No public remarks were given on the floor, where staff was able to enter only after family members and Senators had visited.
In West Virginia, a procession that will end at the Capitol is scheduled this evening. President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden are expected to speak at the celebration of life, which will also be attended by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.); Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.); Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.); former President Bill Clinton; Vicki Kennedy, the wife of Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) who died last year; and the entire West Virginia Congressional delegation.
A funeral will be held Tuesday at the Memorial Baptist Church in Arlington, Va. Byrd is expected to be laid to rest alongside his wife, Erma Ora Byrd, who died in 2006 and is buried in Arlington.