John Lewis returned Wednesday to Atlanta, the city that the Alabama native called home for more than 50 years and where he will be buried.
Lewis’ flag-draped casket arrived at Dobbins Air Reserve Base and was carried to a hearse by a joint services military honor guard. From there, the body of the civil rights icon and congressman, who died July 17 at 80 years old from pancreatic cancer, was driven through the streets of Atlanta, including along John Lewis Freedom Parkway, to the Georgia Capitol, where it lay in state in the rotunda.
Gov. Brian Kemp, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, and state Rep. Calvin Smyre spoke at a ceremony in the presence of Lewis’ family.
“Congressman Lewis changed our country in profound and immeasurable ways, and his legacy of passionate service is truly unmatched,” Kemp said.
Lance Bottoms said, “Congressman Lewis reminded us to be hopeful, to be optimistic, and to never lose a sense of hope.”
Public viewing of the casket then was held for several hours.
On Thursday, an invitation-only funeral for Lewis will be held at the Ebenezer Baptist Church in downtown Atlanta, before burial at South-View Cemetery, south of downtown.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that “a source with President Barack Obama’s plans” said that Obama would speak at the funeral. Other news reports said that former Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, as well as the presumptive Democratic nominee for president, Joe Biden, would be in attendance.
The burial at South-View Cemetery will conclude a week of celebration of Lewis’ life. The casket previously was taken from Atlanta to a memorial service in Lewis’ hometown of Troy, Ala., and carried in a horse-drawn carriage across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala., where Lewis was beaten leading a march in 1965, before laying in state at the Alabama Capitol in Montgomery.
Lewis’ casket was flown to Andrews Air Force Base outside of Washington, D.C., where it was met by a uniformed honor guard. The hearse paused at Black Lives Matter Plaza and then again at the Lincoln Memorial. At the Capitol, the body of the 17-term Democratic congressman from Georgia’s 5th District, often referred to as the “conscience of the Congress,” lay in state in the rotunda, the first Black member of Congress to be so honored.
South-View Cemetery “was founded in 1886 as a respectable burial place for the formerly enslaved Black people who had been mistreated and kept out of segregated cemeteries,” the AJC reported. More than 80,000 Black people are buried at South-View. Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was buried at South-View until his body was moved to The King Center.