President Trump — brother’s funeral held at the White House


Last week I came across this article from USA Today and I also saw news reports about President Trump’s brother, Robert Trump, who had died and his funeral services were held at the White House.  The article mentions that White House funerals are rare.

It seems that when dignitaries die and there is a wake or visitation of State proportions, the body lies in state in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda, not the White House.

Just reading that White House funerals are rare, and thinking that I have never heard of one in my lifetime, stirred an interest in me to learn more about the process.  So, I did a little research and will present it here for those of you historians.

It appears that the first two funerals held at the White House were held for Presidents William Henry Harrison in 1841 and for President Zachary Taylor in 1850.  The next President to have funeral in the East Room of the White House was President Abraham Lincoln in April 1865 after he had been assassinated.

However, prior to President Lincoln’s funeral in the East Room of the White House, there had been two other funerals held there during the Civil War.  One was for a Lincoln family friend, Col. Elmer Ellsworth, whose funeral was held in 1861 and the other for President Lincoln’s 11-year old son, Willie Lincoln, who died in 1862.

You can read more about the Lincoln funeral here.

Also, President John F. Kennedy’s body was in state in the East Room of the White House prior to being escorted to The Cathedral of St. Matthew, The Apostle, for a funeral mass.  You can see photos of the Kennedy repose here.

Related:  Just last month, Representative John Lewis became the first Black lawmaker to have the honor of being in state in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda.  A year earlier, Representative Elijah Cummings also was honored by being in state in the U.S. Capitol.  However, his body was in state in the U.S. Capitol Statuary Hall.

Related:  Our funeral home, Anderson Funeral Home of Alexandria, Minnesota, has had the privilege and honor of being the funeral home in

The Knute Nelson funeral caisson in Alexandria on the way to Kinkead Cemetery.

charge of two State funerals.  Both were former United States Senators and both are buried in our hometown Kinkead Cemetery.  The first was Senator Knute Nelson who died in 1923.  Senator Nelson, an immigrant from Norway, was the first Scandinavian born member of Congress.  He served three terms as a U.S. Congressman, two terms as Governor of Minnesota, and was elected four times as U.S. Senator from Minnesota.  He died serving in the U.S. Senate.  Sen. Knute Nelson Wikipedia information.

The Knute Nelson Funeral at the State Capitol

An interesting note about Senator Nelson.  When my great grandparents arrived as immigrants from Sweden in 1872 it was then attorney Knute Nelson of Alexandria who borrowed his fellow Scandinavian immigrants $500 to build what became a cabinet shop and eventually our first funeral establishment.  Our family still owns the property and the abstract shows the mortgage and the recorded satisfaction of mortgage two years later.

The second U.S. Senator that we were entrusted with funeral arrangements for was U.S. Senator Henrik Shipstead.  Sen. Shipstead served as a U.S. Senator from 1923 to 1947, first being elected as a Democrat and later as a Republican.  He died in 1960 and is buried at Kinkead Cemetery in Alexandria.  Sen. Henrik Shipstead Wikipedia information.

Related – Personal Story — The White House.  –  I had the privilege of being invited to the White House in November 2017 during the first year of the Trump Presidency.  My friend, Carl Wittenburg, had asked me to serve on a board for his company.  That company, Protein Alliance, owns turkey farms in North Dakota and also operates a large turkey brokerage business for family operated

My friends, Carl and Sharlene Wittenburg at the White House.

turkey farmers to get their products to market at competitive pricing while competing with the industry big wheels like Perdue, Hormel, Gold n’ Plump, Butterball, and the like.  In any event, the Wittenburgs were selected by the National Turkey Federation to present the “Thanksgiving Turkeys” at the White House.  As a board member. . . my wife, Angie, and I were invited along.

It was an unbelievable experience.  After getting thru security we were allowed to wonder around some of the inside of the White House and all around the grounds outside.  Young members of the U.S. military stood in dress uniform blocking areas you were not allowed to enter.   A couple of things I remember is that I went through four “airport like” security check-points before getting in. . . each checkpoint manned by a different branch of the U.S. Armed Services.  (I was later told that the 4 checkpoints with differing parties in charge was a security precaution in itself).  I also went through some sort of “wind-tunnel” that I was informed was some sort of security and I have never seen anything like it anywhere else.

One thing that did surprise me – in the photo with my wife – the door behind us to the right is a restroom.  I went in to

Douglas County 4-H members with President Trump and “Drumstick”

use the room and was somewhat shocked that the tiles on the floor and walls, as well as the bathroom fixtures themselves, had probably been in place since the 1950’s. . . at least in this one room, the American taxpayers were getting their money’s worth.  (I remember one of my thoughts in this restroom. . . the door and lock were so old that I considered not locking the door because I did not want to be the guy who locked himself in the bathroom at the White House!)

While I did not get the chance to visit with the President we did get to speak with Vice-President Pence, Ivanka Trump who had her young children at the event, and the First Lady’s parents who were visiting for the Thanksgiving holiday..

The Wittenburgs had shared their good fortune of this opportunity with the 4-H group from our county.  The 4-H students helped select the turkey to be pardoned and were invited to the ceremony also.  President Trump was gracious enough to bring all of the 4-H students into the Oval Office with The First Lady and their son, Barron, for a

Yours truly visiting with Congressman Colin Peterson in the Rose Garden

short visit.

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