Originally created 07/20/00

Georgia makes preparations for funeral, successor



ATLANTA - In the wake of U.S. Sen. Paul Coverdell's death, state officials are busy planning his funeral and researching the rules on special elections.

Mr. Coverdell, who died Tuesday of a stroke at age 61, will lie in state at the Capitol in Atlanta on Friday. Viewing will be limited to family from 9 to 10 a.m. and open to the public from 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.

The service will be held at 1 p.m. Saturday at Peachtree Road United Methodist Church in Atlanta.

Similar arrangements were made for Sen. Richard B. Russell Jr., who died in office in 1971. Mr. Russell, who died in Washington, lay in state in the Georgia Capitol before burial in Winder with several members of Congress attending.

Rain during Mr. Russell's funeral limited mourners to 4,000 and forced Vice President Spiro Agnew to miss the services when his plane had to divert to Charleston, S.C.

Mr. Coverdell's funeral could draw similar crowds and dignitaries. He was a close ally of President Bush and Senate liaison to Texas Gov. George W. Bush's presidential campaign. Vice President Al Gore offered his condolences to Mr. Coverdell's family Tuesday night.

It was after Mr. Russell's death that then-Gov. Jimmy Carter appointed Atlanta attorney David Gambrell to complete the term. Mr. Gambrell, though, was defeated in a crowded primary in 1972 by a little-known legislator, Sam Nunn.

The possible repeat of Mr. Gambrell's fate could be one reason Gov. Roy Barnes is researching his legal and political options closely before calling for a special election.

"I'm sure they're doing a lot of polling on this now, Democrats and Republicans," Emory political science professor Merle Black said.

Among the issues Attorney General Thurbert Baker is researching is whether a sitting congressman would have to resign if he qualified for the special election, according to Kara Jones, spokeswoman for Secretary of State Cathy Cox, who supervises elections.

Leaving those congressional seats vacant is also an issue for the national political parties.

"You can bet the National Republican Congressional Committee is watching these closely," Republican pollster Mark Rountree said. "They don't want to leave those seats open to Democrats when there is such a slim Republican margin in the U.S. House."

Reach Walter C. Jones at (404) 589-8424.