After a short but poignant private service inside the Great Hall of the U.S. Supreme Court, the casket of the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was placed on the portico of the Supreme Court and the public were welcomed to file past. I was one of those who paid his respects.
Ginsburg Lies In Repose At U.S. Supreme Court – My Visit
I arrived in Washington, DC on Tuesday night, just ahead of RBG’s final farewell. In the still of the night, I took a walk down First Street NE to visit the Supreme Court ahead of the crowds that would soon line up as the sun rose.
Other than two guards and a few members of the media, I was all by myself…
A barricade had been erected to keep the street clear, but along the fence grateful Americans had left flowers and notes in memory of RBG.
It is in the stillness of the night that one can better reflect upon the fact that we all will eventually face death. Thinking about death always reminds me of the following verse from the John Roberts hymn Immortal, Invisible God Only Wise:
To all life Thou givest, to both great and small;
In all life Thou livest, the true life of all;
We blossom and flourish as leaves on the tree,
And wither and perish, but nought changeth Thee.
(obviously not Chief Justice John Roberts)
RBG was such a fighter. She thought she could beat cancer or at least wait out Trump. But it was not meant to be.
The following morning I took the Metro to Union Station at about noon, and walked to the Supreme Court. Long lines greeted me on East Capitol Street, with thousands already queuing to pay their final respects.
A street preacher hollered at the crowds over a loudspeaker:
The crowd was a mix of old and young, white and black, gay and straight, and everybody in between. I was surprised at how many young children there were, though it was clear that parents wanted their children to take part in this historical event.
Lines moved fairly quickly and just over an hour later I made it to the front of the line.
I hesitated taking pictures, viewing it as somewhat inappropriate, but quickly took a few for purposes of this report. Two clerks were standing on the sides of the casket. There was no time limit as to how long you could spend at the base of the steps to the Supreme Court, but most paused only momentarily to keep the lines moving.
Around the side of the Supreme Court building was a depository for more notes and flowers. Unlike when Justice Scalia died, there were no commemorative card offered to guests.
I crossed the street to take one more look at the Supreme Court building before heading back to Union Station.
Was my last-minute detour to Washington, DC worthwhile? Yes, it was. As I stressed earlier, the pageantry of this event was to honor a brilliant woman, but also to honor an institution. That sort of civic pride is so helpful in countering the extreme partisanship that currently grips our nation.
Thank you, Matthew – A very fitting and beautiful report.
I love the hymn “Immortal Invisible” – I used to play this hymn as a kid on the piano in boarding school.
Matthew, thanks for this and your excellent photos. The fact that you traveled from the west coast to pay your respects is a reflection of you as a person, and very impressive.
I find the tradition of the former Clerks acting as honor guards to be so impressive. Just like you, they come from across the country and the world back to Washington to honor the Justice who they were privileged to clerk. Here is a first hand story from one of her clerks which I read on Linkedin:
“Justice Ginsburg’s death is a grave loss for the country, the Court, and those of us who had the unbelievable privilege to work for and know Justice Ginsburg. For now, I’m revisiting happy memories, and I’ll share a small one to illustrate what a kind and caring person she was.
During my clerkship, my wife and I were having trouble finding daycare for my one-year-old son (Simon Palmore) I had bemoaned the situation to my co-clerks but had no idea that the Justice knew, much less that she would try to fix the problem. I was wrong.
One day, I accompanied the Justice to a speech at the Georgetown Law Center. After, we squeezed into an elevator with Court security officers and Georgetown personnel . When the doors closed, the Justice asked, “where is the daycare center?”
Baffled, one of the Georgetown escorts told her. The Justice answered, “I’d like to go there.” So we did. We got off the elevator, and the Justice led me and the rest of the entourage into the daycare center.
At the front desk, she announced, “Hello, I’m Justice Ginsburg. My clerk, Joe, is looking for a daycare spot for his son, Simon. We’d like a tour.” The Justice and I then navigated the blocks, toys, and toddlers to check out the daycare center. Together.
May her memory be a blessing.”
For all of us I do hope there are others coming forward with the tenacity of Justice Ginsburg. We need it so badly.
Thank you for sharing these special moments in your life.
Thanks for sharing this story, Mike…it’s a wonderful one.
I agree with Matthew, a great story.
How about a spin to make it a negative story? “Justice RBG, how did you know? You are spying on me? Either committing hegemony against my peace loving family by bugging my private conversations or you have secret agents working for you!” RBG responding “the psychiatric ward is in the next building”. Ha!
Seriously, what is unclear to me is if the clerk was not aware that the Georgetown Law Center day care had an opening or whether the child was admitted despite a waiting line?
Now I could never be sure, but while reading this report, I thought that I heard the sound of “Taps” being played. Gently. RIP RG.
Matthew, thank you for wearing a suit. One thing I noticed looking through your pictures is how sloppily dressed all of these people were. Maybe that should not surprise me (they were likely liberals). However, I think it is very important to dress in a respectful manner when paying tribute to someone.
I recall visiting the casket of Ronald Regan when he was lying in repose at his library in Simi Valley, California. You better believe I had a suit and tie on as did everyone else. Of course, this was the president who never entered the oval office without a suit. One of his successors (Clinton) would often wear jeans and eat cheap pizza in there (among his other activities).
You can find some pictures of Reagan without a suit in the oval here:
The article this came from is here:
I don’t judge people by the clothes they wear, particularly their patriotism. I prefer to judge people by their actions and words.
Yeah, MAGA mouth breathers are totally known for their snappy dress and sharp duds
I think your strange potshots at liberals are the exact kind of “extreme partisanship” Matthew is (rightly) trying to counter with this post.
Beautiful photos! Thank you for sharing. I admire RBG a lot and I still remember back in 2012 or 2013 when Democrats were pressuring her to retire (so Obama would pick her replacement) but I’m so glad she fought them and stayed on the bench.
It’s also great to see you wore formal attire to the event! May she Rest In Peace.
Trump supporters are also glad. MAGA!
Politicians are often like this. They claim excellent health but lie. When Bill Clinton was running for the nomination, a major competitor was Paul Tsongas of Massachusetts. He had cancer maybe a year or two earlier but insisted he was in good health. Had he won the primaries and election instead of Clinton, he would have died in office.
Thank you for doing this, Matthew. This is a beautiful narrative that I really enjoyed reading—until I reached some of the negative political comments which have no place here. Thanks again for your tribute to an incredible woman.
The casket is way above the people and roped off. This is snooty. Of course, RBG didn’t do it, others did it to/for her. It would have been more egalitarian if they provided gloves or allowed people to wear disposable gloves (with a trash can) so people could touch the casket. Or at least walk by it and wail.
On the other hand, a fair number of people are wearing non-dark clothes, like if they are going to The Home Depot or Lowe’s.
RBG was a smart justice except, at the end, she was too self centered to realize that she’d better resign before Obama leaves, as others begged her to do.
Don’t be sad, there will be a much better Justice in place before the election.
After a new justice is in place, Trump will get his [redacted by admin] kicked!
Tasteless comment in response to a touching article.
Yes, very nice, and a great character. But I can’t help being a bit frustrated by her lack of savvy when it came to retirement. Even if she’d gone at 84, there wouldn’t be this awful prospect of a stacked court for years, decades to come…ironically threatening much of her life’s work.
Now we get the likelihood of some fruitcake Opus Dei type being a key figure in making determinations on moral questions. Worse than Scalia.
I love these kinds of reports Matthew – this is what distinguishes your blog from others. RIP Justice Ginsburg.