Alabama bids farewell to native son John Lewis

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“He has worked his whole life to help others and make the world a better place to live,” he added.

Troy Mayor Jason Reeves noted that the leader of the Alabama State Troopers, who in March 1965 fiercely beaten Lewis and other Blood Sunday franchise protesters, is now led by a black man.

Col. Charles Ward, Reeves said, is leading the force “not because of the color of his skin, but because of his character content and his abilities. This is what John Lewis did for Troy, for Pike County, for the United States and for the world.

Socially distanced events

COVID-19 gave the procedure a surreal feel.

Lewis’s flag-draped casket was carried into the arena at Troy University by eight military porters, all wearing black masks. Visitors were seated six feet apart on folding chairs.

Several of this week’s events are closed to the public due to the pandemic. Lewis’s family urged people not to travel for the events and to show their support online and at home by tying blue or purple ribbons on their front doors. (Blue is the color of the Lewis brotherhood; purple is the color of the pancreatic cancer ribbon.)

Of those who chose to attend Saturday’s event at Trojan Arena, many were extended family. Lewis’s niece, Mary Lewis-Jones, estimated there were more than 100 loved ones at the memorial service.

“Coming back here and seeing Troy kiss him like he did really means a lot,” said Lewis-Jones, who now lives in Fort Lauderdale.

Pamela Lee felt compelled to drive nearly three hours, alone, from Mariana, Florida, to attend the memorial service in Troy. Lee said she thought, “I must be here” after hearing the news of Lewis’ death.

“I have a very big heart for the freedom fighters. And John Lewis and Dr King were true freedom fighters, ”she said on Saturday.

Lee, born two years before Bloody Sunday, thought of her grandparents, who lived all their lives in Alabama, as she waited for the service to begin.

“Her legacy will live on forever,” she said.

John Lewis “Troy’s Boy” comes home. The body of the Congressman escorted for the celebration of life at the University of Troy on Saturday July 25, 2020.

‘The boy of Troy’

The day was steeped in the symbolism of Lewis’s life.

The University of Troy helped spark Lewis’ civil rights activism. In 1958, the teenager Lewis applied himself to what was then the all-white State of Troy, joining African-American students across the country who were organizing to force the issue of the “Brown vs Board of Education”.

Lewis never heard back, but the silence of the school prompted him to reach out to an inspiring preacher he had heard on the radio: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. nicknamed “Troy’s Boy” . It was a name Lewis wore for the rest of his life and the theme of the Saturday memorial.

A second service was later held at Brown Chapel AME Church in Selma. The church was where about 600 civil rights protesters, including a 25-year-old Lewis, gathered on March 7, 1965 for a planned march to Montgomery.

ExplorerRead our recap: Our live Saturday updates from Selma and Troy

The violent response from Alabama state soldiers about six blocks away at the Edmund Pettus Bridge galvanized the nation and paved the way for Congress to pass the Voting Rights Act. months later.

On Sunday morning, Lewis will cross the bridge one last time, accompanied by a military honor guard. Many of those escorting the congressman’s coffin, according to the mayor of Troy, will be Alabama state soldiers.

Editors Tia Mitchell and Ernie Suggs contributed to this article.

Sunday events

The theme is “The Last Crossing”. At the end of the morning, a military honor guard will accompany Lewis across the Edmund Pettus Bridge from Selma for the last time. The procession will depart from Brown Chapel at 11 a.m. EDT.

At 3 p.m., he will arrive at the Alabama State Capitol in Montgomery. Lewis will remain in state there until 8 p.m.



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