MOURN­ERS URGED TO CON­TINUE JOHN LEWIS’ FIGHT FOR EQUAL­ITY

Chicago Sun-Times - - NATION/WORLD - BY JEFF MARTIN

AT­LANTA — Hailed as a “found­ing fa­ther” of a fairer, bet­ter United States, John Lewis was eu­lo­gized Thurs­day by three for­mer pres­i­dents and oth­ers who urged Amer­i­cans to con­tinue the work of the civil rights icon in fight­ing in­jus­tice dur­ing a mo­ment of racial reck­on­ing.

The long­time mem­ber of Congress even is­sued his own call to ac­tion — in an es­say writ­ten in his fi­nal days that he asked be pub­lished in The New York Times on the day of his fu­neral. In it, he chal­lenged the next gen­er­a­tion to lay “down the heavy bur­dens of hate at last.”

Af­ter nearly a week of ob­ser­vances that took Lewis’ body from his birth­place in Alabama to the na­tion’s cap­i­tal to his fi­nal rest­ing place in At­lanta, mourn­ers in face masks to guard against the coro­n­avirus spread out across pews Thurs­day at the city’s land­mark Ebenezer Bap­tist Church, once pa­s­tored by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

For­mer Pres­i­dent Barack Obama called Lewis “a man of pure joy and un­break­able per­se­ver­ance” dur­ing a fiery eu­logy that was both deeply per­sonal and po­lit­i­cal. The na­tion’s first Black pres­i­dent con­nected Lewis’ legacy to the on­go­ing fight against those who are “do­ing their darnedest to dis­cour­age peo­ple from vot­ing.”

For­mer Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush said Lewis, who died July 17 at the age of 80, preached the Gospel and lived its ideals, “in­sist­ing that hate and fear had to be an­swered with love and hope.”

For­mer Pres­i­dent Jimmy Carter sent writ­ten con­do­lences, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi re­called how the sky was filled with rib­bons of color in Washington ear­lier this week while Lewis’ body was ly­ing in state at the U.S. Capi­tol.

“There was this dou­ble rain­bow over the cas­ket,” she said. “He was telling us, ‘I’m home in heaven, I’m home in heaven.’ We always knew he worked on the side of an­gels, and now he is with them.”

Lewis was the youngest and last sur­vivor of the Big Six civil rights ac­tivists, led by King. He was best known for lead­ing pro­test­ers in the “Bloody Sun­day” march across the Ed­mund Pet­tus Bridge in Selma, where he was beaten by Alabama state troop­ers.

Out­side the church, with tem­per­a­tures in the up­per 80s, hun­dreds gath­ered to watch the ser­vice on a large screen; some sang the civil rights an­them “We Shall Over­come.” Phar­rell Wil­liams’ joy­ous tune “Happy” played as a clos­ing song while a mil­i­tary honor guard loaded Lewis’ flag-draped cof­fin into a hearse; many con­gre­ga­tion mem­bers clapped along.

ALYSSA POIN­TER/AT­LANTA JOUR­NAL-CON­STI­TU­TION

The Honor Guard car­ries the body of Rep. John Lewis af­ter the fu­neral ser­vice Thurs­day at Ebenezer Bap­tist Church in At­lanta.

JOE RAE­DLE/GETTY IM­AGES

LEFT: Mourn­ers gather out­side Ebenezer Bap­tist Church dur­ing the fu­neral for Rep. John Lewis.

ALYSSA POIN­TER/AT­LANTA JOUR­NAL-CON­STI­TU­TION

ABOVE: Fam­ily mem­bers place flow­ers on Rep. John Lewis’ cas­ket at At­lanta’s South-View Ceme­tery on Thurs­day.

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