Historical Highlights

The funeral of Congressman Joab Lawler of Alabama

May 09, 1838
The funeral of Congressman Joab Lawler of Alabama Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives
About this object
W.H. Bartlett’s steel engraving featured a view of the U.S. Capitol from the White House balcony in 1839.
On this date in the 25th Congress (1837–1839), a funeral in the old House Chamber (present day Statuary Hall) was held for Representative Joab Lawler of Alabama. Serving just two terms in the House, the Congressman died unexpectedly on May 8, 1838. Alabama Representative Francis Lyon notified the House of Lawler’s death and then introduced a resolution to honor his colleague. The resolution also included the appointment of a group of Members to handle funeral arrangements as well as directions for Members to wear a black crape arm band for 30 days. Before the House adjourned out of respect for the Congressman, it sent a message to the Senate informing them of Representative Lawler’s death. The chamber subsequently passed a resolution to attend the funeral and to observe the practice of wearing black arm bands. After the funeral, the Congressman was laid to rest in Congressional Cemetery. A few months later, George Crabb of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, won the special election to succeed Lawler. The practice of House Chamber funerals ended with the funeral of Speaker of the House William Bankhead of Alabama in 1940.

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