- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 29, 2010

WASHINGTON (AP) — Sen. Robert C. Byrd, the longest-serving senator in history, often told his colleagues that he loved them, but he loved the Senate more. Fittingly, that’s where Washington will bid him farewell on Thursday, when his body will lie in repose before returning home to West Virginia for a public funeral.

Mr. Byrd’s final appearance on the Senate floor, where he became famous for soaring oratory and record-setting speeches, will be as historic as the senator himself. A senator’s casket last lay in repose there in 1959, the year Mr. Byrd joined the chamber. He was the longest-serving member of Congress ever and was third in line to the presidency.

Mr. Byrd died early Monday at 92 after being hospitalized for dehydration, his office said. Few outside his circle of family had known of his condition.

From Washington to Mr. Byrd‘s beloved West Virginia, lawmakers, aides, law enforcement officials and journalists made preparations for the event. The Senate was expected to approve a resolution to allow Mr. Byrd‘s casket to lie in repose within the chamber, but it was unclear Tuesday when or if the public will be allowed into the Senate.

In Charleston, W. Va., Gov. Joe Manchin’s office announced that Mr. Byrd‘s body will lie in repose in the state capitol’s Rotunda from 9 p.m. Thursday to 9 a.m. Friday. The public will be permitted to pay respect to Mr. Byrd during the 12-hour viewing, a spokeswoman said.

In Washington, there is ample precedent for memorial ceremonies in the Senate chamber, but none has occurred since North Dakota Republican William Langer’s funeral in 1959, according to the Senate Historian’s Office.

Including Langer, 46 senators have lain in repose in the Senate chamber. One additional funeral, the first, was held there for a New Yorker who never was a senator: George Clinton, Thomas Jefferson’s second vice president, lay in repose on April 21, 1812.

Others include South Carolina’s John C. Calhoun in 1850, Kentucky’s Henry Clay in 1852 and Wisconsin’s Joseph McCarthy in 1957.