‘Celebration of Life’ for U.S. Rep. John Lewis to feature stops in his native Alabama
MONTGOMERY — U.S. Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) will lie in state in the Alabama State Capitol on Sunday, as part of a publicly announced “Celebration of Life” for the civil rights icon.
Lewis, who was born and raised in Pike County, passed away last Friday after a bout with stage IV pancreatic cancer.
Governor Kay Ivey has ordered flags lowered to half-staff from sunrise Saturday to sunrise Monday in honor of Lewis’ life and legacy.
Each day of his Celebration of Life has been given a theme. Saturday kicks things off in his home state, themed “The Boy from Troy.”
A public memorial is planned for 10:00 a.m. CT that day at Troy University’s Trojan Arena. Seating is limited to 800 people, and tickets must be obtained outside of the facility to attend. Members of Lewis’ family are scheduled to speak. Lewis will lie in repose from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. CT on Saturday at the same location in Troy.
Per Alabama law, masks must be worn, and social distancing is also strongly encouraged, at all events honoring Lewis.
Later on Saturday, there will be a service at the famed Brown Chapel A.M.E. Church in Selma, near where Lewis and other civil rights activists were brutally beaten on “Bloody Sunday.”
The longtime congressman will lie in repose outside Brown Chapel from 8:00 to 11:00 p.m. CT on Saturday.
U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell (AL-07) took to the floor of the House of Representatives on Thursday to honor Lewis.
In her remarks, Sewell said, “Growing up as a little girl in Selma, Alabama, John’s incredible legacy was a hero’s tale as familiar to me as any Bible story or family lore.”
“As a little girl singing in the choir, Children’s Choir at Brown Chapel AME Church, my home church,” she continued. “The church where John and so many foot soldiers would come time and time again to honor the legacy of the Bloody Sunday march.”
“But to know John was to know a man without ego, who, despite his many well-deserved accolades and successes, loved every person that he met. He looked them in the eye. Can’t you hear him? ‘My brother. My sister,’ he would say,” Sewell added. “John loved this country more than any other person I have met, and it was his deep-seated patriotism that will live on.”
On Sunday morning, Lewis will cross Selma’s Edmund Pettus Bridge for the final time. The theme of this day is “Good Trouble.”
This will begin his lone pilgrimage to Alabama’s Capitol building in Montgomery.
Montgomery Mayor Steven Reed and other community leaders are asking the public to join them at approximately 11:30 a.m. CT to line the sidewalks on Dexter Avenue and welcome Lewis’ procession along the last leg of the Selma-to-Montgomery Voting Rights Trail. The exact timing could change depending on the arrival of the procession.
Lewis is scheduled to lie in state inside the Alabama State Capitol from 2:00 to 7:00 p.m. CT. Members of the public are welcome to stop by and pay their respects.
Governor Ivey stated, “As we prepare to lay Congressman Lewis to rest, we are honored to welcome him home to Alabama to sit overlooking Dexter Avenue, as he lies in state in the Alabama State Capitol. Let us remember the life and longstanding public service of Rep. Lewis. As a pioneer of the Civil Rights Movement, he is a proud son of Alabama. He dedicated his life to serving his community and advocating for others, during some of the most difficult times in our nation’s history.”
“I join my fellow Alabamians and the nation in mourning the death of Congressman Lewis. I offer my heartfelt condolences and prayers to his family, his constituents in Georgia, and all who had the pleasure of calling him a friend. We are indebted to his profound service and will forever remember his heroism and his enduring legacy,” she concluded.
Immediately following Lewis lying in state at the Capitol, Mayor Reed will host a vigil in Lewis’ honor at 7:00 p.m. CT at Alabama’s Bicentennial Park, located at the corner of S. Bainbridge Street and Dexter Avenue in downtown Montgomery. The steps of the Capitol overlook this location.
This vigil will be the culmination of Lewis’s Celebration of Life in the state of Alabama. The event will reportedly feature a variety of dignitaries representative of leadership past, present and future, including Dr. Bernice A. King, daughter of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and CEO of The King Center; original freedom rider Dr. Bernard Lafayette; Attorney Fred Gray; civil rights movement veteran, activist, educator and Alabama Democratic Conference chairman Dr. Joe L. Reed; Sheyann Webb-Christburg, the youngest foot soldier in the Selma-to-Montgomery Voting Rights March; and Black Voters Matter co-founder Latosha Brown. Young activists and community leaders Amerika Blair, Khadidah Stone and Udonna Simpson will also share remarks, as well as other prominent voices in the civil rights movement to be confirmed before the event.
Reed has also directed flags in Montgomery lowered to half-staff.
“Our nation and our community have lost a giant,” the mayor said in a statement following Lewis’ death. “From his humble roots in Pike County, John Lewis rose to become a titan of courage and conscientiousness. His was the voice of righteousness as he bravely, repeatedly risked his life and wellbeing for the cause of equality for all. From Montgomery’s Greyhound bus station, to the Edmund Pettus Bridge on Bloody Sunday, to the halls of Congress, John Lewis displayed the best characteristics of us all; and demanded that our society embrace higher values. Let us pay homage to his memory by emulating his life and ‘getting into good trouble’ whenever and wherever injustice is found.”
Lewis will travel from the Yellowhammer State to the U.S. Capitol Rotunda, where he will receive a private ceremony on Monday afternoon. He will then be moved to the Capitol’s east front steps for public viewing periods on Monday and Tuesday.
He will reach his final resting place of Atlanta on Wednesday, with the Celebration of Life concluding on Thursday.
Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn