COLUMBUS - Governor Taft plans to return to Ohio tomorrow from his South American trade mission to attend services for the late James A. Rhodes, the longest-serving governor in the state's history.
State officials scurried yesterday to set up a daylong event at the Statehouse to memorialize Mr. Rhodes, who died Sunday at Ohio State University Medical Center. He was 91.
Calling hours are from 4 to 7 p.m. today at the Upper Arlington Lutheran Church, 2300 Lytham Road, in the Columbus suburb of Upper Arlington. Mr. Rhodes' body will lie in state under the rotunda of the Statehouse from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. tomorrow.
An invitation-only memorial service then will be held in the Statehouse Atrium. Speakers are expected to include U.S. Sens. George Voinovich and Mike DeWine, Ohio Supreme Court Justice Thomas Moyer, and Mr. Taft.
Those invited will include members of Mr. Rhodes' staff during his four terms as governor, legislative leaders he worked with from both political parties, and publishers, editors, and reporters who covered his career.
Lawmakers announced that the House and Senate sessions and committee meetings scheduled for tomorrow are canceled. The House and Senate will have a joint session at 12:30 p.m. in the House chamber to honor Mr. Rhodes.
A funeral will be at 10 a.m. Thursday in Upper Arlington Lutheran Church. Burial will be in Greenlawn Cemetery near Columbus.
Mr. Taft departed Saturday to lead a delegation to pursue business opportunities in Argentina, Brazil, and Chile.
Mr. Taft will catch a flight from Brazil that will arrive in Dallas at 6:30 a.m. tomorrow.
The governor's office was weighing whether to have him catch a commercial flight back to Columbus or send a state plane to make sure he arrives in Columbus on time, said Mary Anne Sharkey, Mr. Taft's communications director.
The governor is expected to return to the trade mission on Friday or Saturday, when the delegation will be in Brazil or Argentina.
Toledo Mayor Carty Finkbeiner ordered flags at city offices to be flown at half-staff this week in observance of Mr. Rhodes' death.
“This great man of the people inspired and motivated many Ohioans, and served all the cities of Ohio so very well. He will be missed and long remembered,” Mr. Finkbeiner said.