Lewis, 80, died July 17. He was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer last December. Lewis represented the Atlanta area in Congress from 1987 until his death.
The service, which was closed to the public, brought some of the most powerful politicians in the country to deliver remarks. Other speakers include the Rev. Bernice King, CEO of the King Center, who will lead a prayer, activist James Lawson, former Atlanta Mayor Bill Campbell, Lewis’ deputy chief of staff Jamila Thompson and the Rev. Raphael Warnock, a Democratic Senate candidate and senior pastor of the church.
President Donald Trump, who had no events on his schedule for Thursday morning, stayed in Washington to tour the American Red Cross national headquarters and participate in a roundtable on donating plasma in the afternoon. He spent his morning bashing mail-in voting on Twitter and questioning whether the presidential election should be postponed “until people can properly, securely and safely vote.”
The president didn’t mention Lewis in his tweets Thursday and declined to pay his respects when Lewis’ casket was brought to D.C. He did, however, tweet on July 18 that he was “[s]addended to hear the news of civil rights hero John Lewis passing” and sent his prayers, along with first lady Melania Trump, to Lewis’ family.
Lewis will be buried at South-View Cemetery in Atlanta.
In his own final words, Lewis told Americans who have protested systemic racism and police brutality across the country that they “inspired” him in his last days and filled him with hope for the future. He urged American citizens to get into “good trouble” and highlighted voting and participating in the democratic process as key to redeeming the soul of the nation.
“Though I may not be here with you, I urge you to answer the highest calling of your heart and stand up for what you truly believe,” he wrote shortly before his death in an op-ed published earlier Thursday in The New York Times. “In my life I have done all I can to demonstrate that the way of peace, the way of love and nonviolence is the more excellent way. Now it is your turn to let freedom ring.”