The Point: David L. Lawrence
David Leo Lawrence, Mayor of the City of Pittsburgh, 1946-1958; Governor of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, 1959-1963. BORN: 18 June 1889.(1) DIED: 21 November 1966.(2) BURIED: Calvary Cemetery.(3)
Last Rites for David L. Lawrence
From The Pittsburgh Point, 1 December 1966.
After 17 days of waiting in hopeless suspense for the inevitable death, Pittsburgh paid its final respects last week to former Gov. David L. Lawrence.
There were appropriate rites, climaxed by a requiem mass sung Friday at St. Mary's Church at the Point, where Lawrence had been baptized as a child. There were ample obituaries and editorial tributes in the newspapers. And, following the obituaries, there was a start of open speculation about which aspiring Democrat will succeed to the Lawrence power. The city was already adjusting to the sudden departure of its long-time chief.
The official farewell was the low pontifical mass celebrated by Bishop John J. Wright before a congregation of Pittsburgh's political and civic leaders. But for many the real farewell came at McCabe's funeral home in Shadyside, where Lawrence's body lay for three days prior to the funeral. There, those who knew and loved him looked on his face for the last time.
The Last View.
Lawrence's body had been placed on a bier at one end of a large reception room. He was wearing a dark suit and necktie. The familiar rimless spectacles were in place. The hands were crossed and entwined with rosary beads. The body had been turned slightly to face the mourners who came to stand, sometimes to kneel and pray, occasionally to weep.
Having paid their respects to the former governor, the mourners then mingled in the throng which on occasion filled the reception room, the adjoining hallway, and overflowed onto the sidewalk outside. Mrs. Alyce Lawrence, the governor's widow, and other members of the family received friends in a smaller room just off the reception room. Several other rooms were given over to scores of bouquets which lined the walls, the cards of their senders prominently displayed.
The large crowd was subdued, but it was not solemn. There was handshaking, quiet laughter and conversation, and as might be expected, most of the talk was about politics. There were reminiscences about the past and Lawrence's pre-eminent place in it, and there was speculation about the future of the Democratic Party now that its chief was dead.
The reception, in its informality and its spontaneous mingling of sadness and gaiety, seemed like a private affair, which allowed each mourner to pay his respects in his own way, unembarrassed and face-to-face with the deceased.
The requiem mass, by contrast, was a state affair as well as a religious one. Seated in the front rows were Governor Scranton, Governor-elect Shafer, representatives of President Johnson, and visiting mayors from other cities. Vice-president Humphrey had planned to come, but was called instead to a cabinet meeting with the president in Texas. Senator Robert Kennedy, of New York, came unexpectedly and was seated in the front row of mourners, the closest one to the flag-draped coffin. The general public was admitted to seats in the balcony, above and behind the television lights and cameras that lined the balcony rail.
Bishop Wright, reading the mass, noted that the church does not encourage eulogies, recognizing as it does "the futility of praising the blessed dead when they are before the awesome judgment seat of God."
Judgment and Praise.
"Men like David Lawrence don't ask the church to praise them," Bishop Wright continued. "They ask the church only to prepare them for the judgment of God."
Bishop Wright went on to praise Lawrence, however, in simple terms that dwelt more on the man than on his accomplishments.
"However far his political fortunes brought him, however awesome his political influence, he never forsook his friends, he never forswore his baptismal vows," the bishop said.
Drawing on his long friendship with Lawrence, Bishop Wright told of the first of many times he had gone with Lawrence to visit children of unwed mothers at the Rosalia foundling home.
"We wandered into the nursery," the bishop said. "There was only one sister there, nobody he could impress. But the manner in which he reacted, the attention he gave those children, told me then and forever that there was a man a good man and a great man."
"There are many great jobs and many great reputations, but there are fewer great men."