Civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis lies in state at Capitol

APTOPIX_John_Lewis_Remembered_06148
John_Lewis_Remembered_39837 House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., second from left, attends a memorial service as the flag-draped casket of Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., lies in state at the Capitol Rotunda, Monday, July 27, 2020, in Washington.
John_Lewis_Remembered_12382 Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., speaks during a memorial service as the flag-draped casket of Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., lies in state at the Capitol Rotunda, Monday, July 27, 2020, in Washington.
APTOPIX_John_Lewis_Remembered_10869 A hearse with the flag-draped casket of Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., pauses in front of the Lincoln Memorial, Monday, July 27, 2020, in Washington, on way to the Capitol.
APTOPIX_John_Lewis_Remembered_18372 The hearse with the flag-draped casket of Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., drives on 16th Street, renamed Black Lives Matter Plaza near the White House, Monday, July 27, 2020, in Washington.
APTOPIX_John_Lewis_Remembered_50334 The flag-draped casket of Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., is carried by a joint services military honor guard to the hearse, Monday, July 27, 2020, at Andrews Air Force Base, Md.
APTOPIX_John_Lewis_Remembered_21224 Members of the Congressional Black Caucus, say farewell at the conclusion of a service for the late Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., a key figure in the civil rights movement and a 17-term congressman from Georgia, as he lies in state at the Capitol in Washington, Monday, July 27, 2020.
John_Lewis_Remembered_99678 House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of Calif., left, and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Md., participate in a wreath laying during a memorial service for the late Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., as he lies in state at the Capitol in Washington, Monday, July 27, 2020.
John_Lewis_Remembered_20236 The flag-draped casket of civil rights pioneer Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., who died July 17, is carried by a U.S. military honor guard to the center of the U.S. Capitol Rotunda to lie in state in Washington, Monday, July 27, 2020.
John_Lewis_Remembered_35186 Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., left, Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., right, attend a memorial service for the late Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., a key figure in the civil rights movement and a 17-term congressman from Georgia, as he lies in state at the Capitol in Washington, Monday, July 27, 2020.
John_Lewis_Remembered_05674 Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., and Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., pay their respects at the flag-draped casket of Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., on Monday, July 27, 2020 in the Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol in Washington.
John_Lewis_Remembered_17851 House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., speaks during a service for the late Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., a key figure in the civil rights movement and a 17-term congressman from Georgia, as he lies in state at the Capitol in Washington, Monday, July 27, 2020.
APTOPIX_John_Lewis_Remembered_62998 House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., left, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., talk prior to a memorial service to honor the late Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., in the Capitol Rotunda, Monday, July 27, 2020, in Washington.
John_Lewis_Remembered_57764 Members of the U.S. Capitol Police honor guard stand near the flag-draped casket of Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., on Monday, July 27, 2020, in the Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol in Washington.
John_Lewis_Remembered_37601 Members of the U.S. Capitol Police honor guard stand near the flag-draped casket of Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., on Monday, July 27, 2020, in the Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol in Washington.
APTOPIX_John_Lewis_Remembered_81436 A security guard peers into peers into the Capitol Rotunda as a memorial service for Rep. John Lewis, D- Ga., is held on Monday, July 27, 2020 on Capitol Hill in Washington.
John_Lewis_Remembered_18510 The hearse carrying the late Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., moves along a section of 16th Street that's been renamed Black Lives Matter Plaza in Washington, Monday, July 27, 2020, in Washington.
John_Lewis_Remembered_06167 A hearse with the flag-draped casket of Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., pauses in front of the Lincoln Memorial, Monday, July 27, 2020, in Washington, on way to the Capitol.
John_Lewis_Remembered_27459 The hearse carrying the late Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., moves along a section of 16th Street that's been renamed Black Lives Matter Plaza in Washington, Monday, July 27, 2020, in Washington.
John_Lewis_Remembered_07166 A hearse with the flag-draped casket of Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., turns onto the street renamed Black Lives Matter Plaza near the White House Monday, July 27, 2020, in Washington.
John_Lewis_Remembered_75552 Democratic presidential candidate, former Vice President Joe Biden, and his wife Jill Biden pause at the flag-draped casket of the late Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., a key figure in the civil rights movement and a 17-term congressman from Georgia, as he lies in state at the Capitol in Washington, Monday, July 27, 2020.
APTOPIX_John_Lewis_Remembered_10067 People view the flag-draped casket of Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., as he lies in state on the East Front Steps of the Capitol in Washington, Monday, July 27, 2020.
APTOPIX_John_Lewis_Remembered_21224 Members of the Congressional Black Caucus, say farewell at the conclusion of a service for the late Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., a key figure in the civil rights movement and a 17-term congressman from Georgia, as he lies in state at the Capitol in Washington, Monday, July 27, 2020.
APTOPIX_John_Lewis_Remembered_06148 Rep. Terri Sewell, D-D-Ala., and other members of the Congressional Black Caucus, depart at the conclusion of a service for the late Rep. John Lewis, a key figure in the civil rights movement and a 17-term congressman from Georgia, as he lies in state at the Capitol in Washington, Monday, July 27, 2020.
John_Lewis_Remembered_17851 House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., speaks during a service for the late Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., a key figure in the civil rights movement and a 17-term congressman from Georgia, as he lies in state at the Capitol in Washington, Monday, July 27, 2020.
John_Lewis_Remembered_73444 Karen Pence, from left, Vice President Mike Pence, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson and his wife Candy Carson stand in front of the flag-draped casket of Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., as he lies in state on the East Front Steps of the Capitol in Washington, Monday, July 27, 2020.
APTOPIX_John_Lewis_Remembered_87848 Democratic presidential candidate, former Vice President Joe Biden, touches the flag-draped casket of the late Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., a key figure in the civil rights movement and a 17-term congressman from Georgia, as he lies in state at the Capitol in Washington, Monday, July 27, 2020.
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WASHINGTON (AP) — In a solemn display of bipartisan unity, congressional leaders praised Democratic Rep. John Lewis as a moral force for the nation on Monday in a Capitol Rotunda memorial service rich with symbolism and punctuated by the booming, recorded voice of the late civil rights icon.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called Lewis the “conscience of the Congress” who was “revered and beloved on both sides of the aisle, on both sides of the Capitol.” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell praised the longtime Georgia congressman as a model of courage and a “peacemaker.”

“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice,” McConnell, a Republican, said, quoting the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. “But that is never automatic. History only bent toward what’s right because people like John paid the price.”

Lewis died July 17 at the age of 80. Born to sharecroppers during Jim Crow segregation, he was beaten by Alabama state troopers during the civil rights movement, spoke ahead of King’s “I Have a Dream” speech at the 1963 March on Washington and was awarded the Medal of Freedom by the nation’s first Black president in 2011.

Dozens of lawmakers looked on Monday as Lewis’ flag-draped casket sat atop the catafalque built for President Abraham Lincoln. Several wiped away tears as the late congressman’s voice echoed off the marble and gilded walls. Lewis was the first Black lawmaker to lie in state in the Rotunda.

“You must find a way to get in the way. You must find a way to get in trouble, good trouble, necessary trouble,” Lewis intoned in a recorded commencement address he’d delivered in his hometown of Atlanta. “Use what you have … to help make our country and make our world a better place, where no one will be left out or left behind. … It is your time.”

Members of the Congressional Black Caucus wore masks with the message “Good Trouble,” a nod to Lewis’ signature advice and the COVID-19 pandemic that has made for unusual funeral arrangements.

The ceremony was the latest in a series of public remembrances. Pelosi, who counted Lewis as a close friend, met his casket earlier Monday at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland, and Lewis’ motorcade stopped at Black Lives Matter Plaza near the White House as it wound through Washington before arriving at the Capitol.

The Democratic speaker noted that Lewis, frail with cancer, had come to the newly painted plaza weeks ago to stand “in solidarity” amid nationwide protests against systemic racism and police brutality. She called the image of Lewis “an iconic picture of justice” and juxtaposed it with another image that seared Lewis into the national memory. In that frame, “an iconic picture of injustice,” Pelosi said, Lewis is collapsed and bleeding near the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, on March 7, 1965, when state troopers beat him and other Black Americans as they demanded voting rights.

Following the Rotunda service, Lewis’ body was moved to the steps on the Capitol’s east side in public view, an unusual sequence required because the pandemic has closed the Capitol to visitors.

Late into the night, a long line of visitors formed outside the Capitol as members of the public quietly, and with appropriate socially distant spacing, came to pay their respects to Lewis.

Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden paid his respects late Monday afternoon. The pair became friends over their two decades on Capitol Hill together and Biden’s two terms as vice president to President Barack Obama, who awarded Lewis the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011.

Notably absent from the ceremonies was President Donald Trump. Lewis once called Trump an illegitimate president and chided him for stoking racial discord. Trump countered by blasting Lewis’ Atlanta district as “crime-infested.” Trump said Monday that he would not go to the Capitol, but Vice President Mike Pence and his wife paid their respects.

Just ahead of the ceremonies, the House passed a bill to establish a new federal commission to study conditions that affect Black men and boys.

Born near Troy, Alabama, Lewis was among the original Freedom Riders, young activists who boarded commercial passenger buses and traveled through the segregated Jim Crow South in the early 1960s. They were assaulted and battered at many stops, by citizens and authorities alike. Lewis was the youngest and last-living of those who spoke on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial at the March on Washington.

The Bloody Sunday events in Selma two years later forged much of Lewis’ public identity. He was at the head of hundreds of civil rights protesters who attempted to march from the Black Belt city to the Alabama Capitol in Montgomery.

The marchers completed the journey weeks later under the protection of federal authorities, but then-Alabama Gov. George C. Wallace, an outspoken segregationist at the time, refused to meet the marchers when they arrived at the Capitol. President Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965 on Aug. 6 of that year.

Lewis spoke of those critical months for the rest of his life as he championed voting rights as the foundation of democracy, and he returned to Selma many times for commemorations at the site where authorities had brutalized him and others. “The vote is precious. It is almost sacred,” he said again and again. “It is the most powerful nonviolent tool we have in a democracy.”

The Supreme Court scaled back the seminal voting law in 2012; an overhauled version remains bottle-necked on Capitol Hill, with Democrats pushing a draft that McConnell and most of his fellow Republicans oppose. The new version would carry Lewis’ name.

Lewis crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge for the last time Sunday on a horse-drawn carriage before an automobile hearse transported him to the Alabama Capitol, where he lay in repose. He was escorted by Alabama state troopers, this time with Black officers in their ranks, and his casket stood down the hall from the office where Wallace had peered out of his window at the citizens he refused to meet.

After the memorial in Washington, Lewis’s body will return to Georgia. He will have a private funeral Thursday at Atlanta’s historic Ebenezer Baptist Church, which King once led.

___

Barrow reported from Birmingham, Ala. Associated Press writers Mary Clare Jalonick and Darlene Superville contributed to this report from Washington.

Copyright © 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

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