Justice Antonin Scalia, who died on Saturday, lay in repose at the U.S. Supreme Court on Friday, as the court, the public and the president paid their respects. While the battle over Scalia’s replacement raged in the political world, the atmosphere at the court was somber.
The flag-draped casket was carried up the marble steps of the Supreme Court on Friday morning, between two long rows of former Scalia clerks, and into the Great Hall.
Inside, the remaining eight justices lined up in their new order of seniority, as they will be on the bench on Monday.
Some looked stricken as the casket was placed atop the wooden catafalque first used after President Lincoln’s assassination.
Standing with the justices were their spouses, as well as the widow and son of the late Justice Thurgood Marshall. Chief Justice John Roberts’ wife, Jane, briefly brushed away tears, as did some of the nearly 100 former law clerks. They would later stand in a rotating honor guard throughout the day and early evening.
Between the Great Hall columns, as if overseeing the ceremony, was a portrait of Scalia, painted by Nelson Shanks. In it, Scalia is surrounded by images representing the great influences in his life — a copy of The Federalist; a framed wedding photo of his wife, Maureen; Webster’s dictionary; an image of Sir Thomas More; and, in the background, a framed certificate from the American Catholic Historical Society.
Scalia’s wife, nine children and most of his 28 grandchildren, who called him “Pop,” were there, too.
The late justice’s son, the Rev. Paul Scalia — a Catholic priest — said traditional prayers:
“You have called your servant Antonin out of this world,” he intoned. “May he rest in peace.”
After the justices and family members filed out of the hall, the court’s personnel — the men and women who staff the institution — filed past the casket to pay their respects. Some were in rough work clothes — janitors and carpenters — others in black suits and dresses. Some were red-eyed and brushed away tears. Some crossed themselves.
This was technically a private ceremony, open only to the justices, their families and court personnel. But reporters were there, it was televised and at 10:30 a.m. the giant bronze doors were reopened to the public.
By late morning, the line to get in stretched nearly a block long.
Many, like the Rev. Kenneth Johnson, were conservative supporters of Scalia’s positions in controversial cases.
“I just respect his pro-life, pro-family issues, and I really respect the man very much,” he said.
Others were there simply to pay respect to Scalia’s service. Mike Meachem, a retired retail manager, said he thought it important that he, as an African-American, be there to honor the justice.
“It’s an important day, an important American that we’ve lost. While I may not have always agreed with his politics, it’s something that you need to recognize,” said Meachem.
Before dawn on Friday, well before any activities began, a lone bagpipe player stood across the street from the court. He didn’t know Scalia, but said he felt drawn to recognize his service. By late morning, Benjamin Williams was still there.
“The division in this country has just gotten to be intolerable, on both sides … and I think he was a steadying force, and I think he was just,” he said.
Late Friday afternoon, President Obama and his wife, Michelle, arrived to pay their respects, too. On Saturday, Justice Scalia will be buried after a funeral Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, a few miles north of the courtroom where he served for 30 years.