Lawrence's Body To Be Removed From Arlington
Cemetery chief: Envoy to Switzerland probably qualified anyway
8 December 1997
|Courtesy of CNN|
body of M. Larry Lawrence Larry will be exhumed from his gravesite at Arlington
National Cemetery, according to the wishes of his widow.
Shelia Davis Lawrence today requested the removal following a political uproar over the waiver that allowed him to be buried in the national cemetery reserved for veterans of the military.
White House aides now acknowledge that Lawrence, who died while serving as U.S. ambassador to Switzerland, apparently never served in the U.S. Merchant Marines during World War II -- let alone was wounded aboard a ship in the North Atlantic -- reasons cited for the waiver allowing him to be bured at Arlington.
In a letter to Mrs. Lawrence, President Clinton says he has accepted her wishes that the body be moved from Arlington.
"It is with a deep sense of personal sadness that I received your letter this afternoon," he writes. "I will of course ensure that the Department of Defense accommodates your wishes."
Mr. Clinton adds: "I will always remember Larry for his friendship and for his service to his community and our country. And I will never forget Larry's remarkable success as a businessman, his generosity as a philanthropist and his skill as a diplomat. I know this has been a difficult time for you and I sincerely hope that you find peace in the days ahead."
The U.S. Army issued a short statement concerning the request to disinter Lawrence's remains.
"The Army is aware that the family has communicated its desires to the president. The Superintendent of Arlington National Cemetery will work with the family to honor their request."
Asked by CNN when the exhumation would occur, Army public affairs officer Maj. Shelly Steelwagen said, "Are we trying to do it under cover of night? No." But she went on to say they Army does not plan to make it a media event.
Probably would have qualified
Lawrence's status as ambassador to Switzerland was enough to justify a waiver for burial in Arlington National Cemetery, the cemetery's superintendent says.
Superintendent John C. Metzler Jr. told The Washington Post he would have recommended a waiver for Lawrence, because he died in office and was actively serving as U.S. ambassador to Switzerland at the time of his death.
Lawrence's burial at Arlington, an honor normally reserved for veterans, has come under review amid questions about whether he actually served in the Merchant Marine during World War II. Conservatives have accused the Clinton Administration of rewarding Democratic donors with Arlington burial plots.
Last week, GOP Rep. Terry Everett (R-Ala.) said investigators had not been able to locate military records that Lawrence, a major Democratic donor, had actually served on the S.S. Horace Bushnell, which was torpedoed by a German submarine in March 1945.
At President Bill Clinton's direction, the State Department is investigating Lawrence's record.
Metzler said previous ambassadors have been granted waivers for burial at Arlington. One was John A. Scali, ambassador to the United Nations in the Nixon Administration, who died in 1995. Another was Arnold L. Raphel, who died in a plane crash while serving as ambassador to Pakistan. His waiver was approved in 1988 by President Ronald Reagan.