Remembering John Lewis

Former Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton will also attend the funeral.


By Libby Cathey and Ella Torres

ABC News – The funeral service for Rep. John Lewis, a civil rights icon known as the “conscience of the U.S. Congress,” will begin at 11 a.m. Thursday, wrapping up six days of memorials paying tribute to his life and his legacy.

Lewis, the son of Alabama sharecroppers, played an instrumental role in the passage of the landmark Voting Rights Act in 1965 and went on to serve more than three decades in Congress representing the 5th Congressional District of Georgia.

Former President Barack Obama will eulogize Lewis, while George W. Bush and Bill Clinton will also attend the private funeral at the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church, which the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. once led. Lewis will be buried in South View Cemetery in Atlanta on Thursday afternoon.

Lewis died on July 17 at 80 after a months-long battle with pancreatic cancer.

In some of his final words, Lewis wrote about the current climate of America and the need to keep fighting for justice in an op-ed for The New York Times, which was to be published on the day of his funeral.

“Though I may not be here with you, I urge you to answer the highest calling of your heart and stand up for what you truly believe,” Lewis wrote. “In my life I have done all I can to demonstrate that the way of peace, the way of love and nonviolence is the more excellent way. Now it is your turn to let freedom ring.”

Tributes for Rep. John Lewis will be delivered by former Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, as well as Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, according to a copy of the funeral program.

Obama, as reported Wednesday, will deliver the eulogy.

Rev. Dr. Bernice King, the CEO of the King Center and youngest child of civil rights leaders Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King, will lead the funeral in a prayer, the funeral program showed.

Other speakers paying tribute include Bill Campbell, former mayor of Atlanta; Jamila Thompson, deputy chief of staff for Lewis; Xernona Clayton, founder of the Trumpet Foundation; and James M. Lawson, an activist.

Funeral ceremonies began last Saturday in Lewis’ hometown of Troy, Alabama. On Sunday in Selma, 55 years after he and other demonstrators were beaten on “Bloody Sunday,” Lewis crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge for a final time. Where he was once met with batons, Lewis’ casket saw salutes from state troopers.

ABC News’ Janice McDonald contributed to this report.

Categories: National News, News