Airline pilot Jason Turner flew about 1,400 miles Friday to honor the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.
The Chicago-area resident figured his one-day, round-trip trek was the least he could do.
“Scalia was one of the great Supreme Court justices in history,” Turner said, while standing in line outside the court. “I’m no constitutional scholar, but I think when you look at history for the past 50 years, he was the first ardent voice to stand up against the radical left-wing court.”
Turner joined thousands of other Scalia fans, history buffs, court-watchers and just plain citizens who bundled up against the chill weather and gray skies Friday to pay their respects. Many waited outside for nearly an hour before they could enter the court’s Great Hall and circle briefly around Scalia’s flag-draped casket.
“He’s been a wonderful jurist for 30 years, and he’s a patriot, so that’s why I’m here,” said Mary Jo Bieberich, who made a 62-mile round-trip from Annapolis, Maryland.
Some, of course, didn’t have to stand in line or travel quite as far to take part in what court officials described as “The Lying in Repose of Justice Scalia.”
I flew out specifically today to pay respects to Justice Scalia, and I’m going home on the one o’clock. Half-day trip.
Chicago resident Jason Turner.
The eight remaining justices convened in the Great Hall, along with Scalia’s family members, for a half-hour private ceremony that began when his casket arrived shortly before 9:30 a.m. Eight Supreme Court police officers carried the casket up the steps, which were lined with current and former court staffers.
None of the justices spoke during the private ceremony, and they did not don their black judicial robes, though they sent a signal of sorts by standing arrayed in their new order of seniority. When he died last Saturday at the age of 79, Scalia was the longest-serving justice.
Scalia’s widow, Maureen, whom he married in 1960 following his graduation from Georgetown and Harvard Law School, was present, along with their nine children and several dozen grandchildren. One of his sons, the Rev. Paul Scalia, delivered brief remarks along with the Lord’s Prayer.
“In your wisdom you have called your servant Antonin out of this world,” intoned Scalia, a Roman Catholic priest from Arlington, Virginia. “Release him from the bonds of sin, and welcome him into your presence so that he may enjoy eternal life and peace.”
After the justices and family members filed out, a public viewing began at 10:30 a.m. and was to run until 8 p.m.
Once inside the Great Hall, visitors passing behind red ropes saw Scalia’s casket resting atop a wooden catalfaque, originally built to hold Abraham Lincoln’s casket in 1865. Scalia’s former law clerks took turns standing watch at the casket, four at a time for a half-hour each.
“He was like a father to all of us lucky enough to clerk for him,” one of the former clerks, Lawrence, Kansas-native Kannon Shanmugam, recalled via Twitter following Scalia’s death.
Red-and-white flower arrangements sent by the House and Senate added color. At one end of the hall, visitors saw an oil portrait of Scalia painted in 2007 by the late Nelson Shanks, a one-time University of Kansas student whose other artistic subjects included former President Bill Clinton.
President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama paid their respects Friday afternoon, but were not expected to attend the funeral Mass, which was scheduled to be celebrated Saturday at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington. The burial afterward was to be private.