Online Collection

Eulogies delivered in the Rotunda of the United States Capitol Nov. 24, 1963

Object Number: 1989.033.0001.0008
Category: Books
Type of Object: Booklet
Dimensions: 9 1/8 × 5 13/16 in. (23.2 × 14.8 cm)
Medium: Paper
"Eulogies to the Late President Delivered in the Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol November 24, 1963." A four-page booklet containing the full text of the eulogies delivered in the Rotunda of the United States Capitol by Senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield, Chief Justice Earl Warren and Speaker of the House John W. McCormack on Sunday, November 24, 1963. These eulogies were part of the ceremony at the beginning of the formal tradition of lying in state, a twenty-four hour period in which the president's casket lay in the Capitol Rotunda, surrounded by an Honor Guard, visited by hundreds of thousands of mourners paying their respects.

The document was printed December 12, 1963.
Curator's Notes

According to William Manchester's 1967 book, "The Death of a President," Jacqueline Kennedy wanted only Senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield to deliver the eulogy in the Capitol Rotunda, having recalled the late president's praise of Mansfield at a White House dinner one month before the assassination. However, since the Rotunda is officially under the jurisdiction of the U.S. House, it was considered inappropriate for the Senate Majority Leader to be designated as the sole speaker. Ultimately a compromise was reached for three eulogists: Mansfield, Speaker of the House John McCormack and Chief Justice Earl Warren. Even this, according to Manchester, "was violation of convention," since according to protocol, Carl Hayden, President Pro Tempore of the U.S. Senate, should have represented the Senate instead of Mansfield, whose participation "could only be justified on the ground that he was the choice of the widowed First Lady." 

Manchester writes that Jacqueline Kennedy found Mansfield's eulogy to be "magnificent," comparing it to "a Pericles oration, or Lincoln's letter to the mother who had lost five sons in battle." Manchester himself describes it as "an authentic masterpiece which went unappreciated, like so many great speeches, at the time of its delivery. Because of the dreadful acoustics many did not even hear it." -- Stephen Fagin, Curator

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