More than 50 years have passed since a chief justice of the United States died in office. Fred M. Vinson, appointed by President Truman in 1946, was 63 when he died unexpectedly on Sept. 8, 1953. President Eisenhower declared 30 days of national mourning.
Vinson was eulogized at a national memorial service at Washington National Cathedral with Eisenhower and Vice President Richard M. Nixon leading Truman and 2,000 other mourners, many of them members of Congress. Clad in the black robes of his office, Vinson was buried in his hometown of Louisa, Ky.
Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist died Saturday at the age of 80. The bodies of his two immediate predecessors lay in the Supreme Court Building before their services.
The casket of the last chief justice to have died, Warren E. Burger in 1995, was carried up the marble steps of the building, where it was on public view for 12 hours before services at National Presbyterian Church. President Clinton, the nine members of the Supreme Court and four former justices were among the 800 people who attended.
Burger, 87, was buried at Arlington National Cemetery _ as was his predecessor, Earl Warren, in 1974. Warren was the first chief justice whose coffin was displayed publicly in the Supreme Court Building. The chair he used while serving on the court was placed at the head of the coffin, which remained in the building for two days.
Services for Warren, 83, were held at Washington National Cathedral. Nixon, by then president, led the mourners, Washington Post reported.
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