The late Congressman John Lewis will lie in state at the Capitol next week, an honor that has been bestowed upon only a few dozen American politicians since the practice began in 1852.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) announced in a statement Thursday that the two-day ceremony will begin on Monday.
However, the event will have public health restrictions in place that will significantly alter the nature of the tribute, which was most recently afforded in 2019 to the late Congressman Elijah Cummings.
“Given COVID-19 precautions, Congressman Lewis will lie in state at the top of the East Front Steps of the U.S. Capitol for the public viewing, and the public will file past on the East Plaza,” said the duo in the statement. “Per the Washington, D.C. Mayor’s order, masks will be required to enter the line, which will begin at the corner of First and East Capitol Streets NE. Social distancing will also be strictly enforced.”
The portion of the ceremony typically held inside of the capitol will be off limits to the public due to the coronavirus, although a procession throughout the city will also occur. The Lewis family has also asked that people from out of town not attend in-person, due to coronavirus concerns, said the statement.
According to The Montgomery Advertiser, Lewis will be honored with nearly a week’s worth of ceremonies beginning over the weekend, when his body will be taken to several places including across the Edmund Pettus Bridge, the location of Selma, Alabama’s Bloody Sunday.
After traveling to Washington, D.C., to lie in state on Monday and Tuesday, his body will be sent to the Georgia state capitol in Atlanta, which includes the district Lewis represented since his election in 1987.
The son of sharecroppers, a civil rights leader, and a widely respected congressman, Lewis died last week following a battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 80.
After his death, President Donald Trump said he was saddened by the news, and ordered flags to be flown at half-staff. Other politicians, both Democrats and Republicans, talked positively of the late congressman’s legacy as a public figure and as a person.
Vice President Mike Pence said Lewis was “unfailingly kind” and that his “selflessness and conviction rendered our nation into a more perfect union, and his example will inspire generations of Americans.”
Former President Barack Obama, who awarded Lewis the medal of freedom in 2011, commended the late congressman for giving “himself to the cause of freedom and justice” and inspiring “generations that followed to try to live up to his example.”
In a statement at the time of his death, Pelosi called the late congressman a courageous “titan of the civil rights movement.”
“John Lewis was a titan of the civil rights movement whose goodness, faith and bravery transformed our nation – from the determination with which he met discrimination at lunch counters and on Freedom Rides, to the courage he showed as a young man facing down violence and death on Edmund Pettus Bridge, to the moral leadership he brought to the Congress for more than 30 years,” she said.