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Under U.S. Capitol Dome, Nation Pays Tribute To Woody Williams

Curtis Tate
Woody Williams' casket is surrounded by his family at the U.S. Capitol Rotunda.

Step, by step, U.S. Marines carried the flag draped casket of Hershel “Woody” Williams up the eastern front of the U.S. Capitol. For the next few hours, Williams, who was the last living Medal of Honor recipient from World War II, lay in honor in the Capitol rotunda.

Williams died on June 29 in Huntington at age 98. Very few Americans have been honored in such a fashion, and he is the first West Virginian.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi paid tribute to Williams. Senators, members of the House and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Veterans Secretary Denis McDonough and Williams’ family encircled Williams’ casket.

The casket rested on the same catafalque that was originally built for Abraham Lincoln. Sens. Shelley Moore Capito and Joe Manchin, and all three House members from West Virginia, placed wreaths by the casket. Lawmakers from both chambers, the Cabinet secretaries and family members lined up to pay their respects.

After the ceremony, Capito said Williams earned the admiration of powerful people across generational lines. And, she said, his optimism and sense of humor endeared him to many more.

“I mean, he was sort of universally known and admired, and people wanted to be with him,” Capito said. “He was the kind of person you wanted to be around, because he had an infectious love of the country.”

Capito also shared what one of her Senate colleagues told her.

“He was in the military. He had a bunch of programs. He said he got these programs because ‘I’m going to show them to my dad.’ And I thought that shows you what the meaning of this is generationally. I thought that was a good way to sum it up.”

Energy & Environment Reporter, ctate@wvpublic.org, 202-679-8470, @tatecurtis

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