ATLANTA — Georgia State Troopers had to extend the time to keep open the State Capitol rotunda as hundreds of people remained in line outside the state house Wednesday night to pay their respects to the late Rep. John Lewis.
Some people had been in line for hours so they could say one last farewell to the civil rights icon.
The line began forming after a day of events to honor Lewis as he returned to Atlanta for the final time -- the city and area he represented for more than 30 years in Congress.
Stay with Channel 2 Action News for complete coverage of John Lewis’ homecoming. We’ll have LIVE coverage of Lewis’ funeral on Thursday on Channel 2 Action News and streaming on WSB Now on our mobile devices, as well as Apple TV, Roku and Amazon Fire.
The mayor and governor paid tribute to Lewis’ nearly lifelong service Wednesday afternoon during a memorial service held inside the rotunda.
The ceremony was an invite-only event for close friends, family and local dignitaries as the civil rights icon laid in state ahead of Lewis’ funeral on Thursday.
During that ceremony everyone was reminded that Lewis often called for people to get into good trouble. Good trouble meant go out and demonstrate peacefully if you want to see good change in the world.
State Rep. Calvin Smyre remembered his friend as a giant. Smyre has served as a legislator for 46 years and thanked Lewis for paving the way so he could do that.
“A giant redwood tree has fallen in the Georgia forest of life,” Smyre said. “He gave and left us a mandate to stand up, speak up and speak out, a mandate to find a way to get in the way and make our state and country a better place.”
Just minutes earlier, the hearse bearing the late congressman rounded the corner of Martin Luther King Jr. Drive and Washington Street, under a huge flag brought by Atlanta Fire Rescue.
Minutes later, an honor guard removed the casket from the hearse and escorted it through the front doors of the Capitol.
Back inside, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms reminded Gov. Brian Kemp that most of the peaceful protests in Atlanta over the past two months were the kind of good trouble Lewis wanted people to get into.
“And governor, know when the good troubles continue, it’s with the blessings of Congressman Lewis,” Bottoms said. “His legacy of service is truly unmatched.”
Kemp spoke as well, asking all Georgians to join with Lewis’ vision of a more just America.
“John Lewis told us to be hopeful, to be optimistic,” Kemp said. “As we mourn his passing, we should all recommit ourselves to the principles he fought for: Our country’s core foundation in liberty, freedom and justice for all. America and the state of Georgia will be forever stronger, freer and more just because of Congressman Lewis, but we just do our part to build on his work and keep his legacy alive.”
Auburn Avenue will be closed to traffic between Boulevard and Jackson Street from 5 p.m. Wednesday until 1 p.m. Thursday. And Jackson Street will be shut down between Auburn Avenue and Irwin Street from 11 p.m. Wednesday until 1 p.m. Thursday, police said.
THURSDAY, July 30
A LIFETIME OF SERVICE
A Celebration of Life
Ebenezer Baptist Church Horizon Sanctuary
Given COVID-19 precautions, this event is not open to the public. Attendees will be required to wear face and mouth coverings.
People can post video, photos, songs, or any kind of virtual tribute to Rep. Lewis using #BelovedCommunity or #HumanDignity or leave a written tribute at www.theJohnLewisLegacy.com.