When John Lewis is mourned, revered and celebrated at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta on Thursday, he returns to a sacred place imbued with civil rights historical past.
The arc of Lewis’s legacy of activism will as soon as once more be tied to Ebenezer’s former Pastor Martin Luther King Jr, whose sermons Lewis found whereas scanning the radio dial as a 15-year-old boy rising up in then-segregated Alabama.
King continued to encourage Lewis’s civil rights work for the subsequent 65 years as he fought segregation throughout typically bloody marches, Greyhound bus “Freedom Rides” throughout the South and later throughout his lengthy tenure within the US Congress.
Lewis died on July 17 on the age of 80.
Former President Barack Obama might be attending Thursday’s funeral and is anticipated to handle mourners, in keeping with an individual conversant in the preparations who was not authorised to talk publicly.
Former President George W Bush’s workplace mentioned the he and former First Girl Laura Bush will even attend.
“He was my hero,” Ebenezer’s senior pastor, the Reverend Raphael Warnock, mentioned in an interview late on Wednesday. “He laid all of it on the road, on the danger of life and limb.”
“He learn the Gospel, and he really believed it – love your enemies,” added Warnock, who will officiate the funeral.
When Lewis was 15, he heard King’s sermons on WRMA, a radio station in Montgomery, Alabama, he recalled in an interview for the Southern Oral Historical past Program.
“Later I noticed him on many events in Nashville whereas I used to be in class between 1958 and ’61,” Lewis mentioned. “In a way, he was my chief.”
King was “the one that, greater than some other, continued to affect my life, who made me who I used to be,” Lewis wrote in his 1998 autobiography, Strolling with the Wind.
John Lewis requested The NYT to publish this on the day of his funeral. It’s obligatory studying. He writes, “While you see one thing that’s not proper, you have to say one thing … Democracy shouldn’t be a state. It’s an act, and every technology should do its half.” https://t.co/gNWQDpeAZt
— Yamiche Alcindor (@Yamiche) July 30, 2020
By the summer time of 1963, Lewis was addressing 1000’s of individuals through the March on Washington, talking shortly earlier than King gave his well-known I Have a Dream speech. He spoke then about Black individuals crushed by police and jailed – themes that resonate vividly in at the moment’s instances.
“My pals, allow us to not overlook that we’re concerned in a severe social revolution,” Lewis advised the massive crowd on the Washington Mall.
“To those that have mentioned, ‘Be affected person and wait,’ we have now lengthy mentioned that we can’t be affected person,” he added. “We don’t need our freedom progressively, however we need to be free now! We’re drained. We’re bored with being crushed by policemen. We’re bored with seeing our individuals locked up in jail again and again.”
In 1965, Lewis was crushed by Alabama state troopers within the metropolis of Selma in what turned often called Bloody Sunday.
Final Sunday, his coffin was carried throughout the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma. The wagon rolled over a carpet of rose petals on the bridge that spans the Alabama River.
On the south facet of the bridge, the place Lewis was attacked by the regulation officers, relations positioned crimson roses over which the carriage rolled, marking the spot the place Lewis spilled his blood and suffered a head damage.
Lewis was later awarded the Medal of Freedom by the nation’s first Black president in 2011.
He spent greater than 30 years in Congress, and his district included most of Atlanta.
On Monday, a memorial service at the US Capitol in Washington drew congressional leaders from each events. Lewis was the primary Black legislator to lie in state within the Capitol Rotunda.
On Wednesday he was lauded as a warrior and hero throughout a ceremony on the Georgia Capitol, the place individuals paid their last respects to the civil rights icon in one of many final memorials.
Lewis was a member of Ebenezer, and “it was my honour to function pastor to John Lewis, a person of religion and a real American patriot who selflessly risked life and limb within the sacred reason for truth-telling and justice-making on the earth,” Warnock mentioned in a press release earlier than the funeral.
“He was wounded for America’s transgressions, crushed for our iniquities and by his bruises we’re healed,” Warnock added. “At this time we weep. Tomorrow we proceed the work of therapeutic that was his life’s work.”