Sun | Aug 9, 2020

John Lewis mourned as ‘founding father’ of ‘better America’

Published:Friday | July 31, 2020 | 12:21 AM
Mourners place flowers on the casket of Rep John Lewis at South-View Cemetery, yesterday, in Atlanta. Lewis, who carried the struggle against racial discrimination from Southern battlegrounds of the 1960s to the halls of Congress, died on July 17.
Mourners place flowers on the casket of Rep John Lewis at South-View Cemetery, yesterday, in Atlanta. Lewis, who carried the struggle against racial discrimination from Southern battlegrounds of the 1960s to the halls of Congress, died on July 17.

ATLANTA (AP):

JOHN LEWIS was celebrated as an American hero during his funeral Thursday as former President Barack Obama and others called on people to follow Lewis’ example and fight injustice.

Three former presidents joined in the eulogies at Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church after nearly a week of mourning that took the civil-rights icon from his birthplace in Alabama to the nation’s capital of Washington to his final resting place in his home of Atlanta.

Lewis was “a man of pure joy and unbreakable perseverance”, Obama said during a fiery speech in which he hearkened back to Lewis’ legacy and connected it to the ongoing fight against those who are “doing their darndest to discourage people from voting”.

“He, as much as anyone in our history, brought this country a little bit closer to our highest ideals,” Obama said. “And someday, when we do finish that long journey towards freedom, when we do form a more perfect union, whether it’s years from now or decades, or even if it takes another two centuries, John Lewis will be a founding father of that fuller, fairer, better America.”

PREACHED THE GOSPEL

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

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi recalled how Lewis’ body was lying in state at the US Capitol earlier this week and a double rainbow appeared.

“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.”

The arc of Lewis’ legacy of activism was once again tied to Ebenezer’s former pastor, Martin Luther King Jr, whose sermons Lewis discovered while scanning the radio dial as a 15-year-old boy growing up in then-segregated Alabama.

King continued to inspire Lewis’ civil-rights work for the next 65 years as he fought segregation during sometimes bloody marches, Greyhound bus ‘Freedom Rides’ across the South, and later during his long tenure in the US Congress.

“Get in good trouble, necessary trouble, and help redeem the soul of America,” Lewis said of his run-ins with the law. The phrase was repeated several times during the funeral.