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Antonin Scalia Lies In Repose As Mourners Pay Respects At Supreme Court

A long line of mourners queued up to pay their respects to late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, whose body is now lying in repose at the Great Hall of the Supreme Court.

Parts of the observances will be open to the public. A private ceremony was slated to begin at 9:30 a.m. ET. Members of the public will be allowed into the hall until 8 p.m.

Barack and Michelle Obama paid their respects to Scalia at around 3:30 this afternoon, after the visitation by the general public has begun. They stood next to the casket for about a minute with their hands clasped in front of them, both wearing black.

The crowd that gathered for the event was wide-ranging. Local residents were present; so were English students who are on a class trip to the United States. Nearby, a man was playing the bagpipes.

NPR intern Samantha Del Duca spoke to Ben Williams, the bagpipe player, who said he is a former history teacher who taught government and politics in southern Maryland – and who now sees an "intolerable" amount of political division in the U.S.

"I think he was a steadying force, and I think he was just, and he tried to be as logical and contemplative as humanly possible," Williams said of Scalia. "I hope they can replace him with someone equally talented, with understanding of the law and the purpose behind it. That's my concern. Justice Scalia was a fantastic man, I think."

Another visitor was Emily Weatherspoon, a senior at St. Mary's School who said she respects Scalia as a Supreme Court justice.

"The plan was not originally to come out this morning," Weatherspoon tells Samantha. But, she adds, "we're here to study the government up close. To get the opportunity to come out and see something like this is definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience."

Just before 9:30, an honor guard at the Supreme Court led Scalia's former law clerks, who are acting as honorary pallbearers, between rows of mourners as they left the Great Hall to meet Scalia's casket.

Benjamin Williams, who arrived at the Supreme Court at 6 a.m., could be heard playing a Welsh lullaby on his bagpipes in honor of the late Justice Antonin Scalia this morning.
Samantha Del Duca / NPR
Benjamin Williams, who arrived at the Supreme Court at 6 a.m., could be heard playing a Welsh lullaby on his bagpipes in honor of the late Justice Antonin Scalia this morning.

Eight Supreme Court police officers serving as pallbearers then carried the casket, draped in a U.S. flag, from a funeral home limousine up the stairs and into the building. They carried the casket past the Supreme Court justices before placing it on the Lincoln Catafalque.

After the casket was placed on the platform, Scalia's son, Father Paul Scalia, addressed those gathered and said a prayer. The justices then paused for a long moment of silence before leaving the hall; soon after, the line of mourners began moving through the hall.

The funeral for Scalia is scheduled for Saturday, at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington. President Obama will not be at the service; Vice President Joe Biden and his wife will attend.

"Scalia is only the fourth justice to die in office in the past 65 years, and there is no consistent pattern of presidential attendance at court funerals," Nina says.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.
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