TROY, Ala. — Family and friends celebrated the life of Congressman John Lewis in his home state of Alabama Saturday. The longtime Atlanta representative and Civil Rights icon died last week after a battle with pancreatic cancer.
There are several memorial services set for Lewis over the next week.
The casket left from the Willie Watkins Funeral Home in Atlanta Saturday morning to head to Troy.
Channel 2′s Nicole Carr was in Selma, where a nation watched Lewis lead civil rights marchers across the Edmund Pettus Bridge, only to be beaten by state troopers. The 1964 march is now known as Bloody Sunday.
Lewis and marchers organized at the Brown Chapel A.M.E Church before Bloody Sunday, and injured marchers returned to the church to escape the attack on the bridge.
Earlier Sunday, family members gathered for a final goodbye in the town Lewis is from, Troy, Alabama.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once dubbed Lewis the “boy from Troy” who went on to become a man and a voice for the people.
Lewis’ humble beginnings prompted biblical comparisons at the Troy service.
“Christ Jesus, he paid the ultimate price, and John Lewis, he paid a price, and so did all that walked it with him,” Alabama resident Mary Davis said. “So get up, join hands and let’s go up this hill together and do what’s right.”
Lewis’ brother, Samuel Lewis, remembered the day John first left home.
“I remember the day when John left home, Mother told him not to get in trouble, not to get in the way and be particular,” Samuel Lewis said. “But we all know that John got in trouble. Got in the way, but it was good trouble.”
That good trouble, the kind made of lunch counter sit-ins and Freedom Fighters, made up some of the stories told over Lewis’ casket Saturday.
The mayor of Troy remembered Bloody Sunday and pointed out the irony that troopers beat Lewis that day, but are celebrating his life today.
“And now Alabama state troopers will lead his body around this state as we celebrate his life,” Mayor Jason Reeves said.
Alabama residents said they hope to carry Lewis’ legacy forward.
“My heart is kind of hurting because I don’t feel like there’s a lot of us who are ready to pick up that torch,” Dr. Rosie Williams said. “But we need to pick up that torch.”
Carr followed along for the second stop on Lewis’ farewell journey for the intimate service inside Selma’s historic church.
Martin Luther King III spoke about Lewis’ reunion with his father in Heaven.
“Can you imagine that reunion last Friday?” King said. “When he was welcomed by Martin Luther King Jr., Coretta Scott King, when he was welcomed by Juanita and Ralph Abernathy and Hosea Williams and Amelia Boynton and Marie Foster and the list goes on and on.”
Inside Brown’s Chapel AME Church, family and friends told intimate stories about the man who evolved into a civil rights icon.
The speakers included one of the youngest Freedom Fighters to attempt to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge alongside Lewis and Alabama Congresswoman Terri Sewell. American Idol contestant Ruben Studdard sang ‘Amazing Grace.'
But it was outside the historic Selma church where Carr found the same profound admiration for Lewis from travelers.
Lola Neal traveled from Nashville to pay her respects with her son.
“I never miss an opportunity to teach and I’m just trying to share a little history with my son,” Neal said. “This is definitely history taking place today.”
Timothy Foster traveled from Roanoke, Alabama.
“They paved the way for us to be where you are right now-anchoring, interviewing, and where I am today,” Foster said. “So this is an historical event, one I’m glad I didn’t miss. We just want our equal lives. Black lives matter.”
Lewis will make one last trek across the Edmund Pettus bridge in spirit Sunday morning.
© 2020 Cox Media Group