MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WJBF/WIAT) — The family of the late congressman John Lewis will host “Celebration of Life” events across the country this weekend, including in Alabama, his home state.
Saturday’s and Sunday’s events are part of a six-day celebration of the civil rights icon. Rep. Lewis (D-Ga.) died last Friday at age 80 of pancreatic cancer—a battle he made public in late December. He was the last surviving member of the “Big Six” civil rights activists, led by the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., who organized the 1963 March on Washington.
Saturday, Lewis’ body will travel back to his hometown Troy, where he grew up during racial segregation in the South. Hopeful of attending the local, all-white Troy College, now Troy University, Lewis said he never received a response and attended the predominately Black American Baptist College in Nashville instead. Wanting to challenge school segregation, he then decided to write to Martin Luther King, Jr., about his struggle. This correspondence sparked Lewis’ involvement in the civil rights movement and eventual participation in the 1961 Freedom Rides.
Several events celebrating Lewis’ life will be held Saturday in Troy and Selma:
- A Service Celebrating “The Boy from Troy” – Trojan Arena, Troy University from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. CT
- Congressman Lewis Lies in Repose – Trojan Arena, Troy University from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. CT
- Selma Salutes Congressman John Lewis – Brown Chapel A.M.E. Church from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. CT
- Congressman Lewis Lies in Repose – Brown Chapel A.M.E. Church from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. CT
Lewis’ body will return to the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma Sunday morning for his “final crossing.” This symbolic journey comes 55 years after the civil rights activist, then 25, was badly beaten on the bridge by Alabama state troopers while leading a 600-strong march for voting rights. He suffered a fractured skull in an attack that erupted during the peaceful demonstration. The televised incident on March 7, 1965, which became known as “Bloody Sunday,” served as a catalyst for a national outcry to end racial discrimination.
President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965 six months later.
Lewis’ celebration of life continues Sunday with multiple events in Montgomery and Selma:
- The Final Crossing – Edmund Pettus Bridge at 10 a.m. CT
- Receiving Ceremony – Front Entrance Hall, Alabama State Capitol at 2 p.m. CT
- Congressman Lewis Lies in State – Alabama State Capitol from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. CT
Other events will be hosted in Atlanta and Washington D.C. The events will also be livestreamed on multiple platforms. For more information, click here.