An 'unbreakable' man: Former presidents hail civil rights icon John Lewis at funeral in Atlanta

Written by on July 30, 2020


Rep. John Lewis was honored by fellow civil rights activists in an emotional memorial service at historic Brown Chapel A.M.E. Church in Selma, Alabama. USA TODAY

ATLANTA – Barack Obama challenged the nation Thursday to honor the reminiscence of John Lewis by choosing up the battle for his signature challenge, voting rights, throughout a eulogy for the civil rights large through which he was joined by two different previous presidents, George W. Bush and Invoice Clinton.

To thunderous applause on the funeral service atEbenezer Baptist Church, Obama invoked the names of Southern segregationists of the 1960s to make some extent about how little has modified in terms of protesters standing up towards authorities to attempt to proper what they understand as injustice.

“Bull Connor could also be gone, however as we speak we witness with our personal eyes cops kneeling on the again of Black People. George Wallace could also be gone, however we are able to witness our federal authorities sending brokers to make use of tear gasoline and batons on peaceable demonstrators,” he mentioned.

Obama hailed Lewis as “a person of pure pleasure and unbreakable perseverance.”

He mentioned the easiest way to honor Lewis, who served in Congress for 4 many years after his work within the civil rights motion, is to proceed the battle for voting rights. Obama mentioned voting needs to be made simpler to jail inmates who earned their place again in society, that early voting needs to be expanded and election day needs to be a nationwide vacation.

Such acts would befitting the reminiscence of Lewis, who led the protests that resulted within the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Clinton, talking slowly in a comfortable voice, earlier hailedthe late congressman for his perception in peaceable demonstration and to the reason for civil rights even when it meant being crushed by police or state troopers throughout the civil rights demonstrations within the 1960s. He famous the devotion to what Lewis known as “good bother,” irritating the established order in an effort to result in change.

“He acquired in lots of good bother alongside the best way, however let’s not neglect he developed an absolute uncanny skill to heal troubled waters,” Clinton mentioned. “He thought the open hand was higher than the clenched fist.”

Bush called Lewis “an American saint, a believer prepared to surrender all the things.”

He famous that he and Lewis had had political disagreements – Bush being a Republican and Lewis a Democrat – however that it was an inevitable results of democracy in motion. He mentioned he admired Lewis for his religion and pursuit of a greater world.

“We reside in a greater and nobler nation as we speak due to John Lewis and his abiding religion within the energy of God, the facility of democracy and the facility of affection to elevate us all to a better floor,” Bush mentioned.

America’s oldest residing former president, Jimmy Carter, 95, despatched a press release that was learn on the service. President Donald Trump, who feuded politically with Lewis, didn’t attend.

Lewis passed away July 17 after a battle with pancreatic most cancers. He was 80 years previous. 

A boy and his hero: Tybre Faw met his hero two years ago. Today, the 12-year-old read John Lewis’ favorite poem at his funeral.


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Speaker of the Home Nancy Pelosi talked of Lewis’ contributions in Congress, the place his physique lie in state on the U.S. Capitol earlier than being flown to Atlanta.

“There was this double rainbow over the casket,” she mentioned. “He was telling us, ‘I’m house in heaven, I’m house in heaven.’ We at all times knew he labored on the facet of angels, and now he’s with them.”

Bernice King, a minister, legal professional and youngest baby of King and Coretta Scott King, echoed the “good bother” theme Lewis embraced in a prayer to start out the service, urging the wrestle for voting rights and over white supremacy “till this nation really turns into a compassionate nation.” Lewis, she mentioned, “joins the good cloud of freedom fighters.”

A large dies: Rep. John Lewis, who ‘risked his life and his blood’ for the civil rights movement, dies of cancer at 80

“We are going to proceed to get in good bother so long as you grant us the breathe to take action,” she mentioned.

Lewis was additionally honored by James Lawson, a fellow civil rights chief, as one who transcended politics to give attention to higher truths. Lewis practiced ‘the politics of the Declaration of Independnce, the politics of the preamble of the Structure.”   

Outdoors Ebenezer Baptist Church, a whole bunch stuffed the sidewalks and entrance yard, many holding indicators and sporting T-shirts with pictures of Lewis or his motto “Good Bother.”

Some stood behind the orange police barricades close to the doorway of the church hoping to catch a glimpse of dignitaries strolling in. 

The streets have been lined with tents occupied by distributors promoting Lewis paraphernalia and Black Lives Matter shirts.

Pamela Burrell mentioned Lewis was probably among the best civil rights leaders in historical past subsequent to King.

“Immediately is a big day and it needs to be John Lewis Day in every single place in America as we speak, particularly Atlanta,” mentioned Burrell, 57, of Atlanta. “And all that we gave to him this week, we truly owe him greater than that.”


Former President George W. Bush remembers civil rights icon John Lewis believing within the Lord, humanity and America. USA TODAY

Isaac Ferguson Dillard and Joseph Earls, of Atlanta, led the group in a music they wrote to honor the late congressman’s “good bother” philosophy. Mourners additionally sang gospel songs resembling “We Shall Overcome.”

Dillard mentioned Lewis impressed him to face up for justice and inspire as we speak’s youth to do the identical.

“As John Lewis mentioned, once you see one thing is fallacious, say one thing, and once you see one thing is fallacious, do one thing,” Dillard mentioned. “So it’s about placing your phrases into motion… and by doing that you just’re entering into good bother.”

When the funeral started, the group moved in entrance of the jumbotron displaying a livestream of the service. They clapped and shouted when leaders resembling Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lace Bottoms and Clinton appeared on the display.

Norris Kenney Allen, 78, was among the many individuals seated in garden chairs immediately in entrance of the display earlier than the funeral began.

Allen mentioned it was “extraordinary” that Obama, Clinton and Bush have been all attending the funeral.

“It’s very uncommon that you just discover three of the presidents at a spot on the identical time,” mentioned Allen, who marched with Lewis in Selma and was impressed by his non-violent protests. “It’s so necessary to be right here.”


Former President Invoice Clinton remembered John Lewis as a person who labored for his group. USA TODAY

The service got here as the New York Instances printed a posthumous op-ed Thursday morning penned by Lewis, a congressman representing the Atlanta space since 1986, repeating his call for People to get in “good bother, vital bother,” in an effort to “redeem the soul” of their nation. 

The civil rights icon wrote the essay shortly earlier than his demise, requesting it’s printed on the day of his funeral. The service on the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church caps six days of memorial events throughout 5 completely different cities. 

There shall be an interment for Lewis at South View Cemetery following the funeral. 

Lewis served within the U.S. Home of Representatives for Georgia’s fifth congressional district for 33 years. The district covers most of Atlanta and a few suburbs. 

Previous to being elected to Congress, Lewis was an Atlanta metropolis councilman.

Lewis was cherished and revered all through the Atlanta group for his unwavering battle for civil rights. 


A have a look at the lifetime of congressman and civil rights icon John Lewis in his personal phrases. USA TODAY

Carrying the torch: In John Lewis’ footsteps: Four House candidates from a new generation to watch

He spent most of his life advocating for equality, notably voting rights for Black individuals, together with as a member of the Pupil Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and a younger organizer for the March on Washington in 1963. 

Mourners created a makeshift memorial of flowers, teddy bears, candles and posters expressing gratitude in entrance of the John Lewis mural in downtown Atlanta. The mural was devoted in 2012. 

Ebenezer Baptist Church’s Horizon Sanctuary is positioned on the web site of the Martin Luther King Jr. Nationwide Historic Park. Civil rights leader C.T. Vivian, who died the identical day as Lewis, was carried by means of the positioning throughout a processional final week. 

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