Friends, family and famous admirers pay tribute to poet Maya Angelou at NC memorial service

WINSTON-SALEM, North Carolina (AP) — Maya Angelou (MY’-uh AN’-juh-loh) is being remembered as a poet, orator and sage.

At a memorial service at Wake Forest University today, former President Bill Clinton said Angelou (MY’-uh AN’-juh-loh) lived enough to experience five lifetimes. He recalled how Angelou was a single mother at 17 and San Francisco’s first African-American streetcar conductor before becoming a civil rights leader and an accomplished writer. Clinton likened Angelou to a firefly, saying she would light up at the most unpredictable times and show you something in your mind you had been burying or something in your heart you were afraid to face.

First lady Michelle Obama remembered Angelou as the first person who let her know she could be a strong, powerful and smart black woman. She said reading Angelou’s poem “Phenomenal Woman” changed a little black girl whose first doll was Malibu Barbie by celebrating “black women’s beauty like no one had ever dared to before.”

Oprah Winfrey says she struggled to put what Maya Angelou (MY’-uh AN’-juh-loh) meant into words, then realized she owed the poet not words, but actions. A sometimes tearful Winfrey called Angelou her spiritual queen mother, saying she always took notes when they spoke on the phone. Winfrey concluded that while she cannot fill Angelou’s shoes, she can walk in her footsteps.

Angelou died last week at age 86.

%@AP Links

147-a-11-(First lady Michelle Obama, at memorial service for Maya Angelou)-“could ever imagine”-First lady Michelle Obama says Maya Angelou’s legacy is a gift of wisdom. (7 Jun 2014)

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148-a-19-(First lady Michelle Obama, at memorial service for Maya Angelou)-“the White House (applause fades)”-First lady Michelle Obama says Maya Angelou encouraged her to determine her own value and proclaim it to the world. (7 Jun 2014)

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150-a-14-(First lady Michelle Obama, at memorial service for Maya Angelou)-“you God bless (applause fades)”-First lady Michelle Obama says the world is a better place because May Angelou lived. (7 Jun 2014)

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149-a-16-(First lady Michelle Obama, at memorial service for Maya Angelou)-“Maya Angelou’s reach”-First lady Michelle Obama says Maya Angelou’s message was to be true to yourself. (7 Jun 2014)

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143-r-32-(Sound of Alyson Williams, singing “God Put a Rainbow in the Clouds” at memorial service for Maya Angelou)–Sound of Alyson Williams singing “God Put a Rainbow in the Clouds” at the memorial service for Maya Angelou. (7 Jun 2014)

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140-a-16-(Oprah Winfrey, at memorial service for Maya Angelou)-“stop it now (laughs fade)”-Oprah Winfrey says Maya Angelou put life in perspective, as she did when Oprah called her about something that had made her cry. (7 Jun 2014)

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138-a-14-(Former President Bill Clinton, at memorial service for Maya Angelou)-“don’t cost anything”-Former President Bill Clinton says Maya Angelou made clear that life is more than power and wealth. (7 Jun 2014)

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139-a-15-(Former President Bill Clinton, at memorial service for Maya Angelou)-“for a while (applause fades)”-Former President Bill Clinton says he thinks he knows why Maya Angelou died when she did. (7 Jun 2014)

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141-a-12-(Oprah Winfrey, at memorial service for Maya Angelou)-“never felt before”-Oprah Winfrey says tearfully that the loss of Maya Angelou is painful. (7 Jun 2014)

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APPHOTO NY115: FILE – This Nov. 21, 2008 file photo shows poet Maya Angelou smiling in Washington. First lady Michelle Obama and others plan to gather to pay tribute to African-American poet and playwright Maya Angelou at a memorial service Saturday, June 7, 2014 at the university in North Carolina where Angelou taught for more than 30 years. Angelou died last week at 86. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, File) (11 Dec 2008)

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APPHOTO NCCB102: Mourners make their way into Wait Chapel before a memorial service for poet and author Maya Angelou at Wait Chapel. at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, N.C., Saturday, June 7, 2014. Former President Bill Clinton and Oprah Winfrey are joining First Lady Michelle Obama at the service. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton) (7 Jun 2014)

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APPHOTO NCCB116: Mourners leave Wait Chapel after a memorial service for poet and author Maya Angelou at Wait Chapel. at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, N.C., Saturday, June 7, 2014. Former President Bill Clinton and Oprah Winfrey joined First Lady Michelle Obama at the service. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton) (7 Jun 2014)

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APPHOTO NCCB113: Media members watch on a screen as First lady Michelle Obama speaks during a memorial service for poet and author Maya Angelou at Wait Chapel. at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, N.C., Saturday, June 7, 2014. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton) (7 Jun 2014)

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APPHOTO NCCB114: Media members watch a screen as Oprah Winfrey speaks during a memorial service for poet and author Maya Angelou at Wait Chapel. at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, N.C., Saturday, June 7, 2014. Former President Bill Clinton and Oprah Winfrey are joining First Lady Michelle Obama at the service. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton) (7 Jun 2014)

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