Congressman John R. Lewis participated in many marches for the Civil Rights Movement, Human Rights and much more, but on July 17, 2020 he marched faithfully through Heaven’s gate. Lewis, “the boy from Troy” became a Minister, Civil Rights Leader, Freedom Bus Rider, U.S. Representative, a Presidential Medal Freedom recipient, and much more. He was a spiritually-anointed, beloved, caring, courageous, and strong soul who definitely made a difference in this lifetime.
One recognizes that quickly when his farewell “send-off” carried him from, Troy, Selma, Montgomery, Washington D.C. and finally back to his adoptive home, Atlanta.
The route included many spiritual and emotional moments.
I am thankful that I was there with the A D King Foundation for the 55th Anniversary of “Bloody Sunday” (March 7, 1965) in Selma.
We reflected on how John Lewis, age 25 walked across the infamous Edmund Pettus Bridge with 600 others who were beaten and tear-gased by the State Troopers because they were non-violently protesting for Blacks to have the right to vote and trying to bring equal justice. Months later, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Watching all the television and internet coverage, it made me feel like I was with him on his last journey. Despite, the pandemic I couldn’t bear to stay home when he was returning to Atlanta to make his final stop. I jumped in my car and there I was heading to Georgia’s State Capitol, over the bridge.
I packed an apple just like John Lewis did 55 years ago when he was preparing to walk across that bridge because he didn’t know when he would return home. Before I actually walked into the Capitol, where Lewis Lie In State, there were other “Lewis” activities going on outside.
The next day was his Homegoing Service at Ebenzer Baptist Church, which the entire world was watching and paying their final respect to this gentle giant who stood so tall.
There were many in attendance from Congress, and three former Presidents of the United States (President Jimmy Carter 95- year-old absentee but there in spirit), Bill Clinton, George Bush and the 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama. He gave the eulogy which was so direct, powerful, passionate and spiritual because that’s the way Lewis lived his entire life.
Lewis’ funeral was private, so I waited until two days later to visit his final resting place. That is when I gave him my final military salute and honor because we both served our country proudly and I was very proud of him.
For those who had the chance to be in his presence during his lifetime, it was an electrifying moment.
When I initially met him, I couldn’t say or do much of anything because I was so emotional being in his presence. All I could do was shake his hand and say, “Thank you”. I never was able to take a photo but I was blessed to sit with deep emotions in his United States Representative’s office in Washington D.C. I was there during the 2nd Inauguration of President Obama in 2013.
African American history is deep and emotional. John Lewis’ long journey was hard and he never gave up on fighting for causes that were right for mankind. Even a month (June 7, 2020) before his death, his frailed body, but strong mind, made his last public appearance. He wanted to actual stand on the “Black Lives Matter” mural, painted by the current generation, on the street leading to the White House which inspired him.
One of his famous quotes, “If you see something that is not right, not fair, not just, you have a moral obligation to do something about it”.
That’s why he felt it was all worth it when he actually lived to see an African American become President of the United States, the highest honor in the land, knowing our people were once regarded only as slaves. And to walk across that Edmund Pettus Bridge one more time with so many significant people that changed the course of history was powerful and breath-taking.
Congressman John Lewis felt all the beatings, arrests, marches, integrating the buses, and the sit-in demonstrations with Rev. Dr. Martin L. King Jr., Rev. Dr. A.D. King, Rev. Dr. Joseph Lowery, Rev. Dr. C.T. Vivian, and many others were worth the journey.
Ironically, his friend C.T. Vivian passed earlier in the day. Lewis was lying down but when they whispered that his fellow civil rights leader friend Vivian had passed on, he closed his eyes and a few hours later he was gone. Lewis had to catch up with Vivian so they could be reunited with all the others who trotted those many dark roads together but now could sing “GLORY”. (Click on GLORY link-Kodee Williams and the Alcoa Youth Community Choir; including me – Courtesy of Teresa Williams Seard)
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