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Members, Capitol Community Give Inouye Emotional Sendoff in Rotunda

Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell stand before the flag-draped casket of Sen. Daniel K. Inouye in the Rotunda of the Capitol.

Americans know the story of Sen. Daniel K. Inouye the war hero, the senior appropriator, the president pro tem and the second-longest-serving senator in history.

But not everybody knew the Hawaii Democrat, who died Monday at age 88, as “Danny.”

That collegial intimacy is what resonated through the ceremony in the Rotunda on Thursday morning, where lawmakers, Cabinet members and staffers joined family and friends for the first in a series of memorial services planned for the late senator.

“Almost all of us who got to know him loved Danny,” Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. said in his eulogy. “How many of your colleagues can you say that about?”

In a casket draped with the American flag, Inouye was carried into the Rotunda about 10 a.m. by an honor guard, and his casket was placed on the historic catafalque constructed in 1865 for President Abraham Lincoln’s funeral.

Inouye will lie in state until Friday morning, when his body will be taken to the National Cathedral. Until that time, four Capitol Police officers in ceremonial attire will stand watch at all times, in shifts.

Senate Chaplain Barry C. Black, who administered last rites to Inouye at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., delivered the invocation. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, also spoke.

“It’s proper that he should lie beneath the enduring symbol of democracy, the Dome of the Capitol,” Reid said. “Dan Inouye was an institution, and he deserves to spend at least another day in this beautiful building in which he dedicated his life.

“He leaves behind a legacy of public service and private kindness,” Reid said.

“While this may be a quiet ceremony for a quiet man, it will endure long after the respects are paid,” Boehner said. “For when this Rotunda comes back to life and the tour guides give their pitch, they will always speak of Daniel Inouye, the gentlemen from Hawaii and one of freedom’s more gallant champions.”

Biden’s eulogy was the most personal, drawing from the friendship he shared with Inouye, which predated Biden’s being sworn in to the Senate in 1973. Inouye campaigned for him, Biden said, and when Biden’s first wife and 1-year-old daughter were killed in a car accident just weeks after his election, Inouye stood by him.

“When I lost my family ... he was one of the first of my future colleagues at my side, encouraging me to keep going,” Biden said. “It’s awful hard to look at a man with one arm, who’d been through all he’d been through, and he’s telling you to keep up, and you say, ‘No, no.’”

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