The six days of memorial services honoring Congressman John Lewis begins Saturday in Troy near his birthplace.
He will be remembered during a service at Troy University, a school he once considered challenging in court to attend. He will lie in repose at the school for three hours before his body is taken to Selma for a service at Brown Chapel A.M.E Church, a historic congregation long tied to the civil rights movement in Selma and Alabama.
He will lie in repose in Selma Saturday night, and Sunday, a procession mirroring the Selma to Montgomery voting rights march route will bring Lewis to the state Capitol for services Sunday.
Follow along here for updates from the services Saturday.
Hundreds honor Lewis during viewing in arena
As the ceremony came to a close with an emphatic rendition of “On Time God” by Dottie Peoples, those in attendance gathered around the edges of the arena floor to view Lewis’ body. The American flag, draped across the congressman’s casket, was carefully pulled back and folded as the coffin was opened.
Lewis, wearing a dark blue suit with a navy tie, laid in the dark mahogany casket, his hands clasped one over the other.
Hundreds filed by, some clearly came with family and friends while others stood alone in line. A young girl, wearing a purple striped dress and a purple headband to keep her hair back, held a bouquet of red tulips bound together with a light blue ribbon. Shortly after the Troy football team, who’d been practicing in the stadium nearby prior to the service, joined the line.
Phi Beta Sigma fraternity brothers honor Lewis at Troy memorial
John Lewis was a member of the Phi Beta Sigma fraternity, along with George Washington Carver, Scottie Pippen and Huey P. Newton.
Members of the fraternity honored Lewis during the viewing inside Troy Arena and sang.
Three moments resonate in Troy memorial service for John Lewis
A young nephew reminding us all to follow his uncle’s words and way. Jackson Lewis Brewster in an unscripted speech told us all to keep his uncle’s legacy alive. So beautiful.
A powerful song delivered with spirit and energy. Dottie Peoples brought the house down with performance of “He’s an On Time God.” Even when there were technical difficulties and the music skipped a beat or two, she sure didn’t.
And the Troy mayor noticing a small, telling moment for Alabama and the country. Jackson Reeves recalled a moment when he noticed Alabama state troopers escorting Lewis’ body into Troy. This is the same organization that was empowered to beat him and others senseless on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in 1965. Now they are protecting him and honoring him as we honor Lewis as a country. That is the change Lewis fought for.
John Lewis’ Troy memorial ceremony ends as viewing set to begin
The ceremony has ended, about 10:55 a.m. Central, and they’ve prepared Lewis’ casket for a viewing.
Out of respect for the family, no photos or videos are allowed during this time, organizers announced.
One final dance with Dottie for John Lewis
Dottie Peoples, before she sang the gospel song “He’s an On Time God,” encouraged the crowd to get on their feet for it, and said Lewis had a favorite song to “do a dance with Dottie.”
“Today this is going to be the final dance with Dottie,” she said.
Congress … ‘A long way from the cotton fields of Alabama’
Lewis’ brother Henry “Grant” Lewis recounted the moment John Lewis was sworn into Congress the first time.
“He gave me a thumbs up and I asked him why and he said “It sure is a long way from the cotton fields of Alabama,’” he said.
The Lewis children were the son of the sharecroppers in Pike County, Alabama. John Lewis fought to gain access to public systems in Troy, the county seat, that was strictly segregated when he was growing up.
John Lewis’ nephew takes stage to honor his uncle
Lewis’ nephew, Jackson Lewis Brewster, in a cute moment, spoke for about 45 seconds on the stage to honor him. It was a small and sweet, unplanned moment. He wasn’t listed on the ceremony’s program.
He asked everyone to keep his uncle’s memory and legacy alive.
When he was done, he jumped off the stage, drawing chuckles from the crowd.
Alabama state troopers escorting John Lewis’ body across state is a symbolic moment, Troy mayor says
Troy Mayor Jason Reeves while speaking at the services Saturday ended his 5-minute speech recognizing a small, but powerful moment for Alabama and the country.
As Lewis’ body was brought into Troy Arena, state troopers were escorting his body and will be escorting his body across Alabama for memorial services.
Reeves reminded the crowd that this is the same organization of law enforcement officers that beat Lewis on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma on Bloody Sunday in 1965.
“(Lewis) became a figure known around the world for action on the Edmund Pettus Bridge confronting Alabama state troopers,” Reeves said. “And now Alabama State Troopers will lead his body around this state as we celebrate his life.”
The crowd clapped in recognition after Reeves recalled the moment.
A look at John Lewis Troy memorial service program
The memorial service is expected to last about an hour inside Troy Arena.
Kim Chandler, a reporter with The Associated Press, tweeted out an image of the program, set in blue with a prominent picture of Lewis during his congressional years.
‘We stand on the shoulders of the Boy from Troy’
Makesha Sampson only slept three hours Friday night.
Sampson got up at 4 a.m. Saturday to leave Atlanta an hour later to see Rep. John Lewis one last time, in the arena she played basketball at her alma mater.
“We stand on his shoulders today,” she said sitting outside the Trojan Arena with her former teammate and friend, Rosalyn Butler.
The pair sat side-by-side sporting T-shirts Sampson had made just for the viewing.
“Danger, Troy State Educated,” the shirts said on the front.
“We stand on the shoulders of the boy from Troy. Congressman John Lewis,” they said on the back.
Butler didn’t have to get up quite so early, commuting from Montgomery, but she was happy to join her friend. The two were some of the first in line to snag one of 800 tickets.
“He paved the way for us,” Butler said. “He actually paved the way for us. For him not being able to attend Troy and I was able to attend Troy and graduate, so he paved the way for us,” Butler said.
Butler said she was at home and happened to see the news of Lewis’ death on the news.
“It was just like wow. We’re going through a pandemic and then someone like John Lewis, he just stood up, he stood up,” she said. “It was very impactful for me. Really sad because we’re no further along than the 50s, so that was the sad part about it. We still have to fight. We’re still fighting.”
Sampson didn’t learn the news until the next morning.
“It really hit me. It felt really personal being as he could not attend Troy and integrate Troy in the 50s, and I was actually able to receive a degree in 1994 from here. So he just really meant a lot,” she said.
Separately the two have attended viewings of Rosa Parks in Montgomery and Coretta Scott King in Atlanta.
“But we found it necessary to come together, in the place where we got to know each other, to say goodbye together,” Butler said.
Casket of John Lewis brought into Troy Arena for memorial services
The body of Congressman John Lewis arrived for memorial services in Trojan Arena at the university shortly before the memorial services were set to begin.
Members of the U.S. military are serving as pallbearers.
This ceremony is open to the public, but seating was limited. Photos show chairs for attendees spread apart to practice social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic. Officials said only 800 public seats were available and attendees must wear face coverings.
John Lewis once considered challenging Troy University for entry
Born Feb. 21, 1940, in Pike County, Alabama, Lewis avidly followed news of the Montgomery Bus Boycott from December 1955 to December 1956, which he wrote in his autobiography that his parents spoke of “with a mixture of awe and disapproval in their voices.” When he was 16, he circulated a petition to integrate the then-segregated Troy public library.
Lewis made an attempt to transfer to Troy University (then Troy State College) in the winter of 1957, which brought him to his first face-to-face meeting with King. King, along with attorney Fred Gray, offered to work with Lewis on a lawsuit if he wanted to pursue it, though King warned him that “if you do this, something could happen to you.” But Lewis’ parents, fearful of whites retaliating against them if their son took on the public fight, convinced him to drop the matter.
He instead attend college in Nashville, Tennessee, and earned degrees from from Fisk University is also a graduate of the American Baptist Theological Seminary.
Read his obituary:Chronicling John Lewis’ life in Alabama