ATLANTA — Former presidents Barack Obama, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush attended he funeral for Rep. John Lewis.
Lewis has served as the representative of Georgia’s 5th District for more than 30 years, serving under all three presidents. Obama is also expected to deliver the eulogy at the service.
Lewis was a guiding voice for a young Illinois senator who would become the nation’s first Black president.
“I first met John when I was in law school, and I told him then that he was one of my heroes. Years later, when I was elected a U.S. Senator, I told him that I stood on his shoulders. When I was elected President of the United States, I hugged him on the inauguration stand before I was sworn in and told him I was only there because of the sacrifices he made. And through all those years, he never stopped providing wisdom and encouragement to me and Michelle and our family. We will miss him dearly,” Obama wrote in a statement marking Lewis’s death.
In 2011, Obama presented Lewis with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
“There’s a quote inscribed over a doorway in Nashville, where students first refused to leave lunch counters 51 years ago this February. And the quote said, “If not us, then who? If not now, then when?” It’s a question John Lewis has been asking his entire life,” Obama said during the award ceremony. “It’s what led him back to the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma after he had already been beaten within an inch of his life days before. It’s why, time and again, he faced down death so that all of us could share equally in the joys of life. It’s why all these years later, he is known as the Conscience of the United States Congress, still speaking his mind on issues of justice and equality.”
Obama and Lewis maintained a special relationship with each other throughout Obama’s presidency. Lewis will be honored at the Ebenezer Baptist Church at 11 a.m. on Thursday.
The funeral will be the culmination of a six-day stretch of ceremonies honoring the civil rights icon that spanned from his boyhood home of Troy, Alabama, to the U.S. Capitol and back to his longtime home of Atlanta.
Lewis will be buried in South-View Cemetery following Thursday’s.
Obama talked about Lewis’ remarkable life in the statement he released on the night of his death.
“Not many of us get to live to see our own legacy play out in such a meaningful, remarkable way. John Lewis did. And thanks to him, we now all have our marching orders — to keep believing in the possibility of remaking this country we love until it lives up to its full promise,” Obama wrote.
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