Farewell tour for beloved Civil Rights icon began in hometown of Troy, Alabama; Lewis to lie in state in Alabama, Georgia, and US Capitol buildings before private funeral at Ebenezer Baptist Church on Thursday
Today, U.S. Congressman John Lewis made his way across the Edmund Pettus Bridge for a final time.
Just a handful of minutes behind schedule, those patiently waiting were treated to the ringing out of a persistent train horn, which intermittently interrupted the almost operatic shrill of cicadas in the orchestra that is nature.
That is how Lewis, whose dearest pet in childhood was a baby chicken, would have liked it.
All too soon, he appeared at the foot of the Selma, Alabama bridge, his courage in the face of white supremacy made famous.
The rumble of four carriage wheels and twice as many horseshoes was little more than a molehill for the shouts that sought to drown them out as if they could awaken once more, the man who now sleeps forever.
Not even a pandemic could keep mourners away, some of whom likely traveled from across the nation, many donning “good trouble” shirts, to pay final tribute to Alabama’s most courageous son.
Led by two black horses, his flag-draped casket, stood out brightly against the bright blue sky, and the lush green of trees which lined the asphalt bridge where a young Lewis was once blooded, but unbowed.
The “little blood” Lewis causally would say he gave on that bridge, those many years ago, was replaced by the lot of red rose petals.
Eventually joined by a handful of Lewis’s immediate family, the cortège’s slow trek was intermittently stopped by its black carriage driver, who proudly rose from his seat to stand in salute.
With a top hat held high to his breast, the tradition connected him — and through him, all of us — to free and enslaved black hack drivers of yesteryears long ago.
“Stand there. Stand there, boy,” directed the driver to his laboring horses once on the foot of the bridge on the other side.
Alabama State Troopers, like the Bloody Sunday of 1965, met Lewis once more. This time there were no billy clubs, no water hoses, or no dogs.
Does that mean things have changed? Of course.
But so bloody is the stain of white supremacy that Lewis’ lifetime of good trouble has not, even on the second Sunday following his death, yet compelled the state and citizenry of Alabama to dump the name of its white supremacist “Grand Dragon” of the Ku Klux Klan bridge namesake into the depths of the river it crosses over.
Until it does, and even if it does, Alabama—and America too—haven’t changed enough.