Wednesday’s recap: Rep. John Lewis has returned to Atlanta

Final services held before Thursday's funeral
7/29/20 - 7/29/20 - Atlanta, GA -  A ceremony is held in the Capitol Rotunda where Rep. John Lewis will lie in state.  On the fifth day of the “Celebration of Life” for Rep. John Lewis, Lewis’s body and and family members returned to Georgia for ceremonies at the State Capitol where he will also lie in state until his funeral on Thursday.  Hyosub Shin /

Credit: Hyosub Shin

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7/29/20 - 7/29/20 - Atlanta, GA - A ceremony is held in the Capitol Rotunda where Rep. John Lewis will lie in state. On the fifth day of the “Celebration of Life” for Rep. John Lewis, Lewis’s body and and family members returned to Georgia for ceremonies at the State Capitol where he will also lie in state until his funeral on Thursday. Hyosub Shin /

Credit: Hyosub Shin

10:45 p.m.: Within about half an hour after closing the line, the decision was made to reopen it and let those still assembled pay their respects to John Lewis.

10:15 p.m.: Shortly after 10 p.m., Capitol police called an end to the visitation line and set up barricades to limit the remaining people allowed inside the building.



9:45 p.m.: Lines of people waiting to pay a final visit to Congressman John Lewis were still long with less than a half-hour before doors of the Capitol were to close.

Visitation began at 3 p.m., but as the 10 p.m. viewing deadline approached, the lines still wrapped around the building and down the block.

7 p.m.: The brothers of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity said goodbye to their brother John Lewis in a sacred and solemn ceremony Wednesday night at the Georgia State Capitol Building.

Micheal Cristal, the international president of the fraternity, founded in1914 at Howard University, said Lewis joined in 1974. Along with Lewis, significant members of the organization include: James Weldon Johnson; George Washington Carver; Hosea Williams, who tried to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge with Lewis on Bloody Sunday; and A. Philip Randolph, the organizer of the March on Washington, who convinced a young Lewis to tone down his speech.

Starting Thursday, the fraternity of more than 200,000 brothers, will kick off “Three Days of Good Trouble in Service,” in honor of their brother.

The next event in the order of services for Congressman John Lewis will be a 45-minute service held by his fraternity, the Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, at 7 p.m.

5:45 p.m.: AJC political reporter Greg Bluestein is reporting that in what could be considered a show of respect nobody signed up to qualify to run to fill Lewis’ unexpired term. Today was the first day of qualifying. Candidates have until Friday to file, as the assumption is they are holding off until after Lewis’ funeral on Thursday.

3 p.m. Doors have opened at the Georgia State Capitol to allow the hundreds of people gathered outside to begin the public viewing of Congressman John Lewis’ casket.

A diverse crowd of mourners ranged in age and ethnicity -- some clad in somber black attire, others in shirts with sayings such as “I can’t breathe” or Lewis’ slogan “Good Trouble” -- and filled the second floor of the Capitol as they lined up for their last chance to see the congressman.

Credit: Hyosub Shin

Credit: Hyosub Shin

Members of Lewis’ family and Georgia state lawmakers sat shoulder-to-shoulder for the 30 minute Rotunda service. By the time it ended, hundreds of people were already in the queue for the public viewing. The line snaked through the building and wrapped around outside.

2:28 p.m.: Closing the brief ceremony Rep. Calvin Smyre (D-Columbus) called John Lewis a “fearless warrior,” and “a giant redwood tree,” who has “fallen in the Georgia forest of life.

“John, in your memory and as a legacy, you will continue to motivate us, inspire us, and be a solid source of strength. You will be missed, but we will cherish the memories and the moments,” Smyre said. “You left us with many challenges to seek answers and certain principles to guide us. Your mark on America is forever established and recorded.”

The family will now gather for a private ceremony at the Capitol.

Credit: Hyosub Shin

Credit: Hyosub Shin

2:22: Quoting Langston Hughes from 1935 about the promise and pain of America, with, “Let America be America again, let it be the dream it used to be…” Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms offered an emotional tribute to Lewis.

“Some five years after these words were written, a descendant of a slave, the son of sharecroppers was born,” Bottoms said. “We gather here today in what was once a stronghold of the confederacy together because this prophet lived and this prophet named John Lewis loved.”

Bottoms said she has had a deep and abiding admiration for John Lewis her entire life and she remembered Lewis’ late wife Lillian coming to her mother’s salon to get her hair done. She told the story of her aunt Ruby Doris Smith Robinson who worked with Lewis in the Student Nonviolence Coordinating Committee. She died at the age of 26.

“Each time I saw the congressman his eyes glistened with tears when he spoke of her. He told me stories of being beaten with her and going to jail together in Rock Hill, S.C. He always made sure to ask about her son,” Bottoms said.

Bottoms said that story is an example of how Lewis made sure that everyone mattered to him

“So I don’t think it was happenstance that in his final public appearance he visited the Black Lives Matter Mural in Washington,” Bottoms said, adding that that was around the same time she joined him on a Zoom call with President Barack Obama. “Until his last days, he was calling upon America to be America again in his words and his deeds.”

In his last days, Lewis’ former chief of staff Michael Collins told Bottoms that the congressman was proud of the leadership that she has shown getting the city through the COVID-19 crisis, peaceful protests and racial unrest.

“And so, governor, when the good trouble continues, know that it is with the blessings of Congressman Lewis,” Bottoms said to claps. “Although the fight for liberty and equality continues, Congressman Lewis reminded us to be hopeful, optimistic and to never lose a sense of hope.”

Credit: Hyosub Shin

Credit: Hyosub Shin

Credit: Alyssa Pointer

Credit: Alyssa Pointer

2:19 p.m: Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp told Lewis’ family that no matter where you go, “everyone knows the name of John Lewis, and more importantly, they know his record of standing up, speaking out, and shaking up the status quo.”

“Congressman Lewis changed our country in profound and immeasurable ways, and his legacy of passionate service is truly unmatched,” Kemp said. “The son of sharecroppers, John Lewis felt his calling at a young age and devoted every waking moment to the fight for justice, equality, access, and opportunity for all people – no matter their skin color. He built quite a reputation along the way, and the “good trouble” that lead to real change inspired a country and changed the world.”

Kemp said as the country mourns the passing of Lewis, everyone should recommit to the principles he fought for: liberty, freedom, and justice for all.

“His example taught us that we have nothing to lose and everything to gain by working together and loving one another,” Kemp said. “And even today, as our country faces a public health crisis and new challenges rooted in injustice, I know that the example left behind by Congressman Lewis, the man who literally crossed the aisle to embrace retiring Republican Senator Johnny Isakson, will inspire us all to do the hard, necessary work to overcome our shared challenges and emerge stronger.”

Kemp gave Lewis’ son, John-Miles Lewis, a Georgia State flag.

Credit: Hyosub Shin

Credit: Hyosub Shin

2:10 p.m. The invitation-only memorial service at the Georgia State Capitol has started.

State Rep. Karen Bennett said, “today we gather in somber celebration to celebrate John Lewis. Our great giant of a man, who heeded God’s call. As one of God’s chosen prophets. He lived by showing us how to get into good trouble.”

Credit: Alyssa Pointer

Credit: Alyssa Pointer

1:50 p.m. An honor guard carefully removed Lewis’ casket from the hearse while a growing crowd outside of the Georgia State Capitol cheered. Standing at the steps of the Capitol to greet the body were Gov. Brian Kemp and his wife; Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms; and Rep. Calvin Smyre.

1:40 p.m.: The processional carrying the casket of Congressman John Lewis briefly stopped at the five-story John Lewis Mural on Auburn Avenue. Dozens of people stopped what they were doing to run over and take photos of the hearse and the flag-draped casket. Some people raised their right fists to the air. Earlier, the processional made it to John Lewis Freedom Parkway before arriving at the birth home of Martin Luther King Jr. two minutes later.

1:28 p.m.: The processional stops at the Rainbow Crosswalk at 10th & Piedmont. Lewis supported same-sex marriage in the early 2000s, years before many fellow African Americans and Democrats embraced the issue, and more than a decade prior to the U.S. Supreme Court legalizing the unions. He compared the struggle for the equal treatment of LGBTQ people to his work on the front lines of the civil rights movement. He frequently attended the annual Human Rights Campaign dinner and marched in the Atlanta Pride Parade. AJC reporter Tamar Hallerman wrote extensively about how Lewis saw gay rights as a civil right.

Credit: Tia Mitchell

Credit: Tia Mitchell

1:09 p.m.: Along the route that the John Lewis processional is scheduled to take on its way to the Georgia State Capitol, people are already starting to line up.

1:05 p.m.: Nicole Meijas was in such a rush to make it to the 10th & Piedmont intersection she left behind the sign she made.

It said: “We continue to march forward because you showed us how.”

Meijas has used Lewis’ “celebration of life” to reflect on leadership and also to encourage others to register to vote. She said it was an honor to cast a ballot for Lewis one last time during the June primary, and in today’s political climate, he provides an example to follow.

”There are so few men left like John Lewis,” she said, “And the opportunity to pay respects is such an honor.”

12:52 p.m: John Lewis’ flag-draped casket was removed from the plane by a military honor guard and transported to an awaiting hearse.

His family members, who had flown in on an earlier charter jet, solemnly watched the brief transfer ceremony. The family gathered in two large buses and will follow the Willie A. Watkins hearse, which had its yellow flashing light on. The hearse’s curtains were open, offering a glance at the American flag atop the casket.

Lewis’ body is now on the way to the Georgia Capitol, where it will lie in state. But along the way, it will make several detours and stops, including the Rainbow Crosswalk at 10th and Piedmont, the former home of Martin Luther King Jr., the John Lewis Mural and along John Lewis Freedom Parkway.

Credit: Alyssa Pointer

Credit: Alyssa Pointer

12:49 p.m.: Brian Hardwick and his 8-year-old twins Libby and Bluffton rode their bikes from Morningside to the 10th & Piedmont intersection. Brian had introduced Bluffton to the “March” graphic novels about Lewis’ life.

”They taught me all about civil rights,” Bluffton said. Now, the elder Hardwick wants his children to be witnesses to a piece of the Atlanta history he has been trying to teach him since they moved to the area two years ago.

”It’s important for all of us to know our history.” he said. “Know what the country has done in the past, know our struggles and know what is left to overcome.”

Credit: Tia Mitchell

Credit: Tia Mitchell

12:30 p.m.: A military jet carrying the body of John Robert Lewis has landed at Dobbins Air Reserve Base. His arrival will begin a day’s worth of activities to honor the long-time congressman and civil rights icon, including a ceremony at the Georgia State Capitol, followed by a seven-hour public viewing.

Credit: Alyssa Pointer

Credit: Alyssa Pointer

12:28 p.m: Maureen Murphy walked from her home to the 10th & Piedmont intersection to scope it out ahead of Lewis’ processional. She said she feels compelled to be present and pay her respects.”He was our congressman, for one,” she said “This is his district.”Murphy, who is a lesbian, also appreciates Lewis’ work for LGBT rights. It felt genuine, she said, as he frequented the Pride Parade and Human Rights Campaign dinners.Like so many others, Murphy has her own story about running into Lewis and marveling about how humble and down-to-earth he was. It was at PetsMart and she began to cry when she saw him; he was looking for dog toys. Tears welled up in her eyes again and she spoke of Lewis.”You just felt like you knew him.”Lewis motorcade is expect to drive past the intersection painted with the rainbow flag around 1 p.m. Murphy and her partner will be waving flags.

12:08 p.m.: A chartered Delta flight carrying the family of John Lewis has just arrived at Dobbins Air Reserve Base.

11:30: a.m.: The flight from Washington, D.C. carrying John Lewis’ body is tentatively scheduled to land at Dobbins Air Reserve Base at 12:09 p.m. From there, his body will be driven to the Georgia State Capitol Building to prepare for a ceremony and public viewing. Before arriving at the Capitol, the processional will drive past the John Lewis Mural on Auburn Avenue.

Reporter Maya T. Prabhu said that big crowds are expected for today’s public viewing from 3 p.m. until 10 p.m.

11:21 a.m.: In a Monmouth University poll released Wednesday, a majority of voters - 53% - have a favorable opinion of the civil rights icon, and just 8% have an unfavorable view of him. Another 38% have no opinion. Before he died, Lewis had been a member of the United States House of Representatives since 1986, generally facing token opposition during election years.

10 a.m.: Organizers for the John Lewis events today have announced that the public viewing hours for the congressman has been extended. The public will now be able to view Lewis’ casket at the Georgia State Capitol Rotunda from 3 p.m. until 10 p.m. Lewis is only the fourth Black person to lie in state at the capitol, following Coretta Scott King, Sen. Leroy Johnson and C.T. Vivian.

Auburn Avenue will be closed to traffic between Boulevard and Jackson Street from 5 p.m. Wednesday until 1 p.m. Thursday. And Jackson Street will be shut down between Auburn Avenue and Irwin Street from 11 p.m. Wednesday until 1 p.m. Thursday, police said.

Original story

U.S. Rep. John Lewis’ body will arrive today in Atlanta, his adopted home and final resting place.

The civil rights giant, who died July 17 at age 80, spent his adult years here and started his political career on the Atlanta City Council. In Congress, he represented the 5th District, which covers Atlanta and many adjoining cities and communities.

His funeral will be Thursday, and he’ll be buried next to his wife, Lillian, who died in 2012.

But there are more “celebration of life” events to be held before his internment.

Lewis casket, attended by family, left the U.S. Capitol, where his body has been lying in state, about 9 a.m.

The entourage will arrive at Dobbins Air Reserve base about noon. The congressman’s casket will be loaded into a hearse and driven to the state Capitol for a fifth and final public viewing.

It will pass several notable spots in Atlanta, including the Rainbow Crosswalk at 10th Street and Piedmont Avenue, Chabad Intown Synagogue, will travel down John Lewis Freedom Parkway, the Martin Luther King Jr Historic District, the John Lewis “HERO” mural and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference headquarters.

As was done in the nation’s capital and three Alabama cities, members of the public will be allowed to file past Lewis’ casket from 3 to 10 p.m. Wednesday, and again from 8 to 10 p.m. Guests should enter from Mitchell Street, bring government-issued IDs for adults and wear a mask.

State leaders and dignitaries, including Gov. Brian Kemp, “dean” of the Georgia House Calvin Smyre and Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, will mark Lewis’ arrival at the Capitol Rotunda during a private ceremony at 2 p.m.

His Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity brothers will conduct a special rite for their deceased member at 7 p.m. inside the Capitol. So will the Prince Hall Masons.

Lewis’ body will remain at the Capitol until it is transported Thursday morning to Ebenezer Baptist Church for the 11 a.m. funeral.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution will update this story today and Thursday as events progress.