ATLANTA — After six days of celebrating the incomparable life of John Lewis, the beloved congressman is now in his final resting place.
Channel 2′s Justin Farmer talked to the president of South-View Cemetery in southeast Atlanta, which was established in 1886 and is the final resting place of over 80,000 African Americans. Winnifred Watts Hemphill is the great-granddaughter of one of the cemetery’s founders.
Hemphill said she watched the coverage of Lewis' celebration of life all week before he was brought to his final resting place. She said she'd gotten to know him after he purchased a burial plot for his wife Lillian at the cemetery in 2012.
"He was a gentle and humble man, but he was very smart and very spirited and very interested in equality of life for everyone," Hemphill said. "He was a special human being."
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Hemphill said Lewis shared with her that he loved the history South View, which was founded by six men who were born into slavery and wanted a more dignified burial place for their loved ones.
Hemphill said there are now 22 people buried at the cemetery who have had public schools in Atlanta named for them, including Lewis.
Dr. Martin Luther King was originally buried at South View in 1968 before being moved to his current resting place at the King Center in 1970. King's parents are still buried at the historic cemetery.
Farmer asked Hemphill what it was like to witness the burial of Lewis at South View Thursday.
"Yesterday was an amazing day," Hemphill said. "We had the community involved, we had people from the neighborhood standing nearby and cheering his life. It was a day we'll always remember."
Hemphill said five busloads of friends and family attended the graveside service.
Hemphill said she remembers a particularly poignant moment in 2017, when Lewis brought 20 friends and family members out on a Sunday afternoon to visit a monument her bought for his wife and to remember her.
“They gathered around the monument and talked about his wife Lillian and their life together,” Hemphill said. “I’ve got a great picture of him at the monument, laughing, crying and remembering.”
Other famous people resting at South-View include John Wesley Dobbs, Alonzo Herndon, Jesse Hill and Andrew Young’s wife, Jean Childs Young.
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