Obama, Clinton and Bush honour US civil rights hero John Lewis at his funeral


US civil rights hero John Lewis has been laid to rest, with three former presidents paying tribute to a man hailed as a “true American patriot”.

Mr Lewis, a long-time member of the House of Representatives, died earlier this month at the age of 80.

He had announced in December that he had been diagnosed with advanced pancreatic cancer.

Mr Lewis' scars were visible years after he was beaten on "Bloody Sunday"
John Lewis was described as a ‘true American patriot’

Mr Lewis’s funeral was held at Atlanta’s historic Ebenezer Baptist Church, which the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr once led.

Former president Barack Obama described him as a man of “pure joy and unbreakable perseverance”.

He also made a pointed reference to those who are “doing their darndest to discourage people from voting”.

Mr Obama was speaking hours after his successor, Donald Trump, suggested delaying November’s presidential election.

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John Lewis funeral

Civil rights icon laid to rest

Mr Trump claimed it would be the “most inaccurate and fraudulent in history” because of plans for increased postal voting amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Mr Obama said Mr Lewis “as much as anyone in our history brought this country a little bit closer to our highest ideals”.

“And someday when we do finish that long journey towards freedom, when we do form a more perfect union, whether it’s years from now or decades or even if it takes another two centuries, John Lewis will be a founding father of that fuller, fairer, better America,” he added.

The former president follows the tributes given to Congressman John Lewis.
Barack Obama hailed Mr Lewis as a man of ‘pure joy and unbreakable perseverance’

George W Bush, who was president from 2001 to 2009, said Mr Lewis “always believed in preaching the Gospel in word and in deed, insisting that hate and fear had to be answered with love and hope”.

Former president Bill Clinton said of Mr Lewis: “He never lost heart… He kept moving.

“It’s important that all of us who loved him remember that he was, after all, a human being.

“A man, like all other humans, born with strengths that he made the most of when many don’t. Born with weaknesses that he worked hard to beat down when many can’t.”

“It made him in my mind even greater.”


Martin Luther King III on John Lewis

Ebenezer’s senior pastor, the Rev Raphael Warnock, told the congregation as the funeral began that Mr Lewis was a “true American patriot who risked his life for the hope and promise of democracy”.

A series of events to remember the late congressman began on Saturday in his hometown of Troy, Alabama.

They included him crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma for the final time.

Crowds gathered in Selma, Alabama to pay their respects to the late civil rights icon John Lewis .

Crowds salute body of civil rights icon John Lewis

The bridge became a landmark in the fight for racial justice when Mr Lewis and other civil rights marchers were beaten there 55 years ago on Bloody Sunday.

This helped galvanise support for the passage of the Voting Rights Act.

Mr Lewis lay in state in Washington DC earlier this week, before his private funeral.

Shortly before he died, Mr Lewis wrote an essay for The New York Times and asked that it be published on the day of his funeral.

Mr Lewis was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama in 2011
Mr Lewis was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Obama in 2011

In the piece, he recalled the teachings of King: “He said we are all complicit when we tolerate injustice.

“He said it is not enough to say it will get better by and by. He said each of us has a moral obligation to stand up, speak up and speak out.”

Mr Lewis added: “Though I may not be here with you, I urge you to answer the highest calling of your heart and stand up for what you truly believe,

“In my life I have done all I can to demonstrate that the way of peace, the way of love and nonviolence is the more excellent way. Now it is your turn to let freedom ring.”

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