Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s personal trainer of 21 years performed three push-ups in front of her casket in tribute to the Supreme Court Justice and fitness enthusiast as she lay in state in the US Capitol Friday.
Bryant Johnson, who helped her stay fit and active even during her bouts of cancer, was seen dropping to the ground in the Statuary Hall inside the Supreme Court and doing the exercises during the memorial service Friday morning.
Mourners including Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and his running mate Kamala Harris joined officials, lawmakers and the justice’s grieving family in paying their respects to the legal pioneer at the ceremony held by a female rabbi.
Ginsburg, a champion of gender equality, made history again as she became the first woman and the first Jewish person to lie in state in the US Capitol.
Johnson, 55, approached Ginsburg’s casket following the short service where House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told of her ‘profound sorrow’ at the liberal icon’s passing and Rabbi Lauren Holtzblatt gave an emotional reflection on the challenges Ginsburg faced and overcame as a woman trying to break into the male-dominated legal profession.
The personal trainer, wearing a face mask and clutching the order of service for the ceremony, walked to the casket which was placed on the Lincoln catafalque alongside a portrait of Ginsburg and two wreaths in the colors of the American flag.
He took a moment to pay his respects to his former workout buddy before he did the push-ups on the floor of the hall.
The justice once referred to Johnson, a 30-year army veteran, as a ‘very important part of my life’ while he described her as ‘awesome’, ‘remarkable’ and someone who never uttered the word ‘can’t’.
Johnson has put Ginsburg through her paces in the gym for more than two decades, after they first teamed up back in 1999 when she was being treated for colorectal cancer at the age of 66.
Ginsburg said her husband told her she looked ‘like a survivor of a concentration camp’ after battling the illness and inspired her to do something to get fit.
The pair were introduced by another judge and committed to working out twice a week ever since.
Ginsburg became known for her fitness regime including push-ups, planks and squats and often promoted the benefits of taking care of her body.
They would often work out at the court gym after a day’s work while ‘PBS NewsHour’ played in the background.
Johnson helped RBG stay fit and healthy when she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2009.
In 2014, Ginsburg fell ill during a workout session and she was taken to hospital and had a stent implanted in her heart.
She returned to the gym soon after and, in 2017, Johnson released a book inspired by the fitness enthusiast called ‘The RBG Workout: How She Stays Strong… and You Can Too!’
He said at the time he hoped the book would show people ‘you’re never too old to do something.’
It goes through the grueling hour-long workout RBG did, alongside illustrations of the justice doing the exercises.
They then appeared in a segment with Late night show host Stephen Colbert in 2018.
The duo carried on working out this year, despite being faced with the shuttering of the Supreme Court gym amid the coronavirus pandemic and the return of her pancreatic cancer.
Johnson has also trained two other liberal justices, Justice Elena Kagan and Justice Stephen Breyer.
Ginsburg, only the second woman to serve as a Supreme Court Justice, died aged 87 last Friday surrounded by her family after battling cancer.
She said her ‘most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed’ in the days leading up to her death.
However Trump has vowed to plow ahead with appointing her replacement for the Supreme Court seat in a move that has sparked fierce debate, with many Democrats – as well as some Republicans – insisting the seat must not be filled until after the election.
The crux of the debate centers around the move made by Republicans back in 2016 – and led by McConnell – to block then-President Barack Obama from appointing a new justice to the court nine months before the election.
Their argument at the time was that the position should not be filled until a new president was elected by the American people – a standard set by the Republicans that the Democrats now argue the party must continue to honor.
Trump said he will name his nominee for the role on Saturday at the White House.
Ginsburg’s flag-draped casket arrived at the Supreme Court Wednesday morning for a ceremony in the court’s Great Hall, flanked by lines of the justice’s former law clerks, who served as honorary pallbearers.
It lay in repose on the steps of the court for two days before she lay in state Friday during a moving memorial ceremony Friday.
The service began at 10 a.m. with a joint services military honor guard carrying Ginsburg’s flag-draped casket up the steps of the Supreme Court and into the hall.
The casket was placed on the Lincoln catafalque in Statuary Hall and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi gave a moving introduction where she told of her ‘profound sorrow’ at the liberal icon’s passing.
‘It is with profound sorrow and deep sympathy to the Ginsburg family that I have the high honor to welcome Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg to lie in state in the Capitol of the United States,’ she said.
‘She does so on a catafalque built for Abraham Lincoln. May she rest in peace.’
Rabbi Lauren Holtzblatt of Adas Israel Congregation in Washington then gave an emotional reflection on the life of Ginsburg, speaking of the challenges she faced as a woman trying to break into a male-dominated profession.
‘I get out of law school with top grades, and no law firm in the city of New York will hire me,’ she quoted Ginsburg as saying one time.
Hotlzblatt, whose husband clerked for Ginsburg from 2014 to 2015, told how the justice overcome these challenges to rise to the highest court in the land.
‘Justice did not arrive like a lightening bolt, but rather through dogged persistence, all the days of her life.
‘Real change, she said, enduring change, happens one step at a time.’
She added: ‘As a lawyer, she won equality for women and men — not in one swift victory, but brick by brick, case by case, through meticulous, careful lawyering.’
Mourners including Ginsburg’s family members, members of Congress and lawmakers then approached the casket in turns to take a moment to pay their respects to the late icon.
Her casket was then carried down the steps in a procession by the honor guard.
Ginsburg’s family plans to hold a private burial next week at Arlington National Cemetery where she will be laid to rest next to her late husband Martin who died in 2010 after 56 years of marriage.
Video: Sen. Manchin: Hope we have enough decency to honor Ginsburg until we lay her to rest (FOX News)