Usually restricted parking around the State Capitol will be made available Thursday afternoon for members of the public wanting to pay their final respects to Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco.

After her casket will be placed in Memorial Hall about 12:45 p.m., the restricted parking area in front of the Capitol will be opened to the public. Parking lots on the east side of the building and across River Road on the west wide will be opened to the public early in the morning.

Authorities aren’t sure how many people will come, but the public will be allowed to file past Blanco’s casket starting at 1 p.m. Anyone in line at 6 p.m., when the doors close, will be allowed to visit.

The State Capitol visitation will be the event during the first of three-days of remembrances to which the public will have the most access.

Blanco, who lost a battle with cancer and died Sunday at the age of 76, is being remembered in Baton Rouge, where she served as governor from 2004 to 2008, and in Lafayette, where she lived.

After an interfaith service at St. Joseph’s Cathedral, which begins at 10 a.m., Blanco’s body will be driven three blocks to the State Capitol by the Louisiana State Police. Her casket will be carried up the front steps, pausing about midway, where the Louisiana National Guard will shoot a salute and “Taps” will be played.

Her casket will be met at the top of the stairs by her husband, Raymond “Coach” Blanco; her nearly 100-year-old mother, Lucille Babineaux; the governor and first lady; Senate President John Alario; and House Speaker Taylor Barras.

Visitors will enter through the ground floor “breezeway” doors on either side of the front steps. They will be screened by security. Bags larger than a small purse will not be allowed.

Then visitors will line up by the stairwell on the Louisiana House side of the building. Disabled and elderly visitors can use the elevators.

People will be escorted up the stairs to Memorial Hall and pass through exhibits and videos about Blanco’s life near the House chamber on the east side of Memorial Hall. Exhibits include the red dress she wore when inaugurated as the first woman governor of Louisiana and only the 25th woman governor in the history of the U.S. There’s also a handwritten letter from President George W. Bush, with whom Blanco sparred after Hurricane Katrina, that was sent after she announced the cancer that would soon take her. Bush wrote Blanco that he and his wife would “pray for your strength and comfort.”

Visitors then will file to the west side of Memorial Hall past her casket, which will be located in front of the state Senate chamber. Members of the Blanco family will receive each visitor.

Gov. John Bel Edwards and First Lady Donna Edwards will be first in line.

“She became really a mentor and somebody I called upon quite often,” Edwards said Wednesday on his radio show, “Ask the Governor.”

Public visitations in Memorial Hall are rare and have been afforded only to a handful of dignitaries, including Baton Rouge civil rights leader, the Rev. T.J. Jemison, and New Orleans state Sen. John Hainkel. Former governors who have been remembered in Memorial Hall include Huey Long and Dave Treen.

Another public visitation is scheduled from 12:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Friday and 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. Saturday at St. John the Evangelist Cathedral in Lafayette. The service begins at 10:30 a.m., and the burial will be private.

Thursday’s events begin at 9:45 a.m. when the hearse arrives in front of St. Joseph Cathedral on Main Street.

The gathering hymn will be “Praise to the Lord Almighty.”

Archbishop Gregory M. Aymond, of the Diocese of New Orleans, will preside over the service with participation of other clergy. Rabbi Barry Weinstein and Rev. Jennifer Jones will read Psalm 23 in Hebrew and English, followed by a reading from the Quran in Arabic and English by Jane Aslam and Rev. Herman Kelly. A number of dignitaries will participate in reciting the responsive reading prayer “Litany for Louisiana.”

St Aloysius School Performance Choir will sing “This Little Light of Mine” and the closing song will be “Amazing Grace” sung by the Southern University Gospel Choir.

The Interfaith Service and other parts of Blanco’s three-day “Celebration of Life” will be broadcast live and streamed online by Louisiana Public Broadcasting at www.LPB.org/live.

Events Thursday 

  • 9:30 a.m. Gathering at St. Joseph Cathedral.
  • 9:45 a.m. Hearse outside in front of St. Joseph Cathedral in downtown Baton Rouge.
  • 9:55 a.m. Procession of clergy, pallbearers and family members enter St. Joseph Cathedral
  • 10 a.m. to 11:15 a.m. Interfaith Service
  • 12:30 p.m. to 12:45 p.m. Honor Procession on State Capitol front steps
  • 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. Blanco family receives visitors by governor’s casket in Memorial Hall
082219 Gov Blanco funeral

Visitation, funeral service and parking information for anyone paying their final respects to former Gov. Kathleen Blanco

Email Mark Ballard at mballard@theadvocate.com.