Thousands of mourners bade farewell to Justice Antonin Scalia on Friday after a solemn ceremony attended by scores of his former law clerks, his widow, Maureen, his nine children and a Supreme Court that lined up in its new order of seniority.
The current court’s longest-serving justice, Scalia, 79, died Feb. 13 on a ranch he was visiting near Marfa, Tex. His casket rested Friday on the same wooden catafalque used for the body of President Abraham Lincoln in 1865.
“God of faithfulness, in your wisdom, you have called your servant, Antonin, out of this world,” Scalia’s son, the Rev. Paul Scalia, a Catholic priest in Arlington, Va., prayed during the simple morning rite.
“Release him from the bonds of sin and welcome him into your presence,” he said, “so that he may enjoy eternal life.”
The court’s Great Hall, where Scalia’s casket rested, had been transformed, with potted palms and identical red-and-white flower arrangements from the House of Representatives and the Senate.
There was also a large framed portrait of Scalia in his judicial robe that was completed in 2007 and had hung at Harvard University, where he attended law school.
The eight remaining justices lined up to receive Scalia’s body when it arrived, with Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, now the longest-serving justice, at the right of Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. Also standing at attention were Justices Clarence Thomas, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer, Samuel A. Alito Jr., Sonia Sotomayor and a teary-eyed Elena Kagan.
Maureen and Paul Scalia and the justice’s other children — Ann Banaszewski, Eugene Scalia, John Scalia, Catherine Courtney, Mary Clare Murray, Matthew Scalia, Christopher Scalia and Margaret Bryce — sat on gold chairs near the wooden casket draped in an American flag.
Scalia had 36 grandchildren, and they and other relatives filled the hall. Court clerks and other personnel filed through before the hall was opened to the public.
By 9:15 Friday morning, a line of eight Supreme Court police officers in white shirts and black pants had assembled on the steps of the court building to wait for the hearse to arrive. A crowd of onlookers stood across the street, under an overcast sky.
At 9:19 a.m., 98 former Scalia law clerks filed down the steps and formed a double line leading up to the 16 columns at the front of the building. By fours, clerks later took 30-minute shifts standing at the corners of the casket throughout the day.
The casket was carried by Supreme Court police officers up the steps, between the large statues of the “Authority of Law” and the “Contemplation of Justice” that flank the court’s grand entrance. Everything was quiet, except for the sound of the pallbearers’ shuffling feet, a distant train horn and the clicking of news cameras.
Paul Scalia, wearing a purple stole, black cassock and white surplice, waited at the top of the steps.
“My brothers and sisters, Jesus says, ‘Come to me all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest,’ ” Scalia said when the coffin was in place.
He led those present in the Lord’s Prayer, blessed and touched his father’s casket, and stepped away.
Shortly after 3:30 p.m., President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama visited to pay their respects, pausing before Scalia’s coffin and his portrait. They met privately with members of Scalia’s family to express their condolences, the White House said.
Earlier Friday, flags outside the court hung limp at half-staff as members of the National Clergy Council, wearing red sashes over their shoulders, waited for the hearse to arrive.
The Rev. Rob Schneck of the Evangelical Church Alliance said: “We all had a lot of contact with the justice. I knew him quite well, spent a lot of time with him here at the court over the last 15 years. So it’s a big loss. We had a wonderful rapport with him.”
Scalia’s casket was placed in the grand, columned hall that leads to the famous courtroom where he dominated oral arguments for almost 30 years. The Lincoln catafalque was lent by Congress for the occasion.
Outside the court, many who had traveled, in some cases overnight, waited to pay their respects. A bagpiper, Ben Williams of Silver Spring, played the song “Going Home.”
Emily Weatherspoon and Hannah Moore, 17-year-old seniors from Raleigh, N.C., were first in line waiting to enter the court and pay their respects. They said they were on a school trip to Washington.
“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see the justice being carried into the Supreme Court,” Weatherspoon said. “We just think it’s an important part of our government system, and we are here to learn about government, so we wanted to get the full experience.”
Melissa Covey of Round Hill, Va., who works as a legal assistant, was third in line. “I so appreciate Justice Scalia,” she said. “He’s been a hero of mine on the Supreme Court. He’s a defender of the Constitution and the rule of law.”
Tenzin Tsultrin, 53, a property manager from Exeter, R.I., said he left his home at 11 p.m. Thursday and drove all night to be present Friday.
He said he made the trip because “I love this nation, this country and the Constitution. And anybody who’s an ardent supporter of the Constitution is good for the country.”
By noon, the line of public mourners extended more than a full block along East Capitol Street from First to Second streets.
Among those waiting earlier were Christopher Deloye, 41, of Falls Church, Va., and his two older daughters, Catherine, 9, and Annaliese, 7.
Catherine “had the prescience to understand that this doesn’t happen very often, so you sort of want to be here to participate,” her father said.
Scalia “was an intellectual giant [who] applied his principles of how he saw the role of the court,” Deloye said. “We are here to basically say thank you for the efforts and the protection of our fundamental liberties.”
Another mourner, Maureen Brodey, checked her youngest son, Joe, out of high school early so they could attend.
“Justice Scalia was a statesman they are going to be reading about in history books for hundreds of years,” said Brodey, 52.
“Even though it’s kind of boring and it takes up a . . . part of your day, it’s an important part of history,” she said. “And I want my children to be able to tell their grandkids they were here for it.”
She is Catholic and calls herself an ultraconservative but also is a strong believer in rights for transgender people. Scalia’s opposition to expanding LGBT rights doesn’t bother her because it was grounded in his legal philosophy.
“He gets a bad rap, but I’ve never seen anything hateful from him. He was trying to sort out a confusing world,” Brodey said.
A funeral Mass for Scalia is scheduled for 11 a.m. Saturday at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, 400 Michigan Ave. NE. The main celebrant at the Mass will be Paul Scalia, the justice’s son.
The burial will be private, the court said.
“He was a jurist of captivating brilliance and wit,” fellow justice Ginsburg said of Scalia after he died, “with a rare talent to make even the most sober judge laugh.”
Dana Hedgpeth contributed to this report.