- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 7, 2005

Solemn and respectful they stood, single file, and at times the line snaked around the block in the September sunshine: congressional staffers, college kids in baseball caps, tourists, Capitol Hill groundskeepers, many on their lunch break.

Few had met Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, who was lying in a plain wooden coffin draped with an American flag inside the Supreme Court building yesterday, but all expressed the same sentiment: They were there to pay their respects.

“I met him once when I was a White House fellow,” said Army Lt. Col. Barrye Price, wearing his dark green uniform and black beret. “I respect his service to our nation. You felt his sense of power and his sense of humility.”

In attendance were Chief Justice Rehnquist’s colleagues, including a tearful Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, who was once his Stanford Law School classmate.

The nation’s 16th chief justice will be buried today at Arlington National Cemetery.

One veteran came from Fort Belvoir, Va., to pay his respects.

“He leaves a strong legacy for the country,” said Steve Clark, 38, who lost his right arm in a road explosion in Iraq two years ago.

As they waited, the mourners discussed Chief Justice Rehnquist’s long tenure on the nation’s highest court.

“Courts in general have gotten too active,” said contractor David Paine, 51. “I think he was a good man, and I supported his ideas. Like him, I think less should be more.”

Marlin Britton, 38, who works at the Library of Congress, wasn’t interested in the chief justice’s politics or beliefs. “Let history tell how well he did the job. This is of historical interest. You respect someone of his stature.”

Barbara Mack, 81, was visiting from Chicago. “We respected Justice Rehnquist greatly. We wanted to pay our respects,” she said.

Once inside the Great Hall, up the long white marble steps, mourners walked slowly past the coffin. It was carried up the step yesterday morning, borne by Chief Justice Rehnquist’s seven former law clerks, including Judge John G. Roberts Jr. Judge Roberts has been picked to replace his former boss, and his Senate confirmation hearings will begin next week.

Flanked by two tall freestanding floral arrangements of blood-red full-blown roses and white and purple delphinium, the coffin rested on the Lincoln catafalque, the bier where President Lincoln’s body was placed after his assassination in 1865.

Resting on an easel was a 1994 oil portrait by Thomas Loepp, showing the chief justice in his court robes, next to a globe that was a gift from his law clerks.

The morning began with a prayer service attended by his colleagues, children and grandchildren, and former staffers. Many had tears in their eyes.

Chief Justice Rehnquist, 80, died of thyroid cancer at his Arlington home Saturday. He was a member of the Redeemer Lutheran Church in McLean, where he will be remembered more for his familial than judicial duties.

“I was more impressed by him as a father and grandfather, as well as chief justice,” said fellow church member Chuck Clopton, who was standing in line yesterday to pay his respects. “I loved his sense of humor. He was a very kind man, and not impressed with himself.”

Mr. Clopton said he is planning to attend Chief Justice Rehnquist’s funeral today at 2 p.m. at St. Matthew’s Cathedral in Northwest Washington. The World War II veteran will be interred in a private burial service at Arlington, where his predecessors as chief justice, Warren E. Burger and Earl Warren, are buried — as is his wife, Natalie, who died in 1991.

“He was really a great leader and upheld many decisions that were controversial,” said 21-year-old Katherine Litras, a student at American University who came yesterday with two friends. “I hope they find someone as great to replace him.”

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