- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 9, 2004

Ronald Reagan’s state funeral was planned more than 20 years ago, mostly by the 40th president himself when he first entered the White House.

Mr. Reagan began planning the ceremony shortly after taking office in 1981, a ritual which became customary after the assassination of President Kennedy, whose lack of funeral preparations left organizers unsure how to proceed.

Shortly after Mr. Reagan left office, he finalized the plans.

“President Reagan gave us a substantial (300-page) plan (for his state funeral) in 1989,” said Capt. Peter Kerr of the Military District of Washington, which is in charge of the organization and execution of state funerals.

The Reagan plan called for having an official funeral service in the District and a sunset burial in California.

“The plan for a state funeral is 90 to 95 percent scripted. Usually, only 5 to 10 percent of such a plan is changed” to accommodate the preferences of the deceased’s family, Capt. Kerr said.

As for changes made to the Reagan plan, Capt. Kerr said the president lay in repose in California for a full extra day beyond the original schedule.

Another change was made by the Reagan family. They requested the placement of a pair of the president’s own boots, reversed, in the stirrups of the riderless horse that marched down Constitution Avenue in his funeral procession.

According to the Military District of Washington, the reversal of the boots “indicates the warrior will never ride again.”

“A state funeral is for a president or someone he designates,” Capt. Kerr said. “It’s one of the highest honors the nation can bestow.”

In 1984, Capt. Kerr said Mr. Reagan proclaimed he was providing state funerals for “unknown soldiers,” or those killed in battle who remained unidentified.

The last state funeral for a president in the District was for Lyndon B. Johnson in 1973.

Many of the rites of Mr. Reagan’s funeral will be the same as those used in 1865 when Abraham Lincoln lay in state in the Capitol Rotunda.

Lincoln was the first American president given a full state funeral, even though national days of mourning had been declared upon the deaths of George Washington and Benjamin Franklin.

Most deceased 20th-century presidents have lain in state in the Capitol Rotunda. But three — Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry Truman and Richard Nixon — did not.

Capt. Kerr said the Military District of Washington “keeps funeral plans for every president.” He added that the office currently has plans for most former presidents.

Published reports have said former Presidents Gerald R. Ford, Jimmy Carter and George Bush all have plans on file, but Bill Clinton does not. Capt. Kerr declined to confirm whether Mr. Clinton had filed any funeral plans.



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