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Civil rights hero John Lewis saluted at site of Alabama bridge beating

As horse-drawn hearse approached bridge mourners shouted, 'Thank you, John Lewis'

Mourners have honoured civil rights hero John Lewis by taking his body to the scene of one of his most famous fights during a memorial.

Lewis’s body, in a horse-drawn hearse, crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, on Sunday.

It was the same bridge where in 1965 he was beaten for marching across to demand voting rights for African Americans.

The march became known as Bloody Sunday and was a significant moment in the struggle for civil rights.

Other major moments on the road to civil rights legislation were Rosa Park’s bus sit-in in Montgomery, also in Alabama, and Martin Luther King’s "I have a dream" speech in Washington.

Lewis went on to spend a lifetime fighting for change. He also became a congressman representing Atlanta, King’s home town in Georgia.

On Sunday, a crowd of mourners gathered at the landmark Selma bridge to see their hero for the last time.

As the wagon approached the bridge, members of the crowd shouted “Thank you, John Lewis", and “Good trouble", the phrase Lewis used to describe his tangles with white authorities during the civil rights movement.

Some sang the gospel song Woke up this Morning with my Mind Stayed on Jesus, and later the civil rights anthem, We shall Overcome.

The hearse retraced the route through Selma from Brown Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church, where the march began.

On the south side of the bridge, where Lewis was beaten by Alabama state troopers, family members placed roses at the spot where he suffered a bloody head injury.

This time, a military honour guard lifted Lewis’s casket from the horse-drawn wagon into a hearse, and state troopers saluted.

On Saturday, Troy University, in Lewis’s Alabama home town, held a memorial for him with social distancing measures in place.

Over the decades he had become a familiar face on the Troy campus but in 1957 he was denied admission to the university because of his race.

Lewis, 80, died from pancreatic cancer.

He will lie in state at the US Capitol next week before his private funeral on Thursday at Atlanta’s historic Ebenezer Baptist Church, which King once led.

Updated: July 27, 2020 12:46 AM

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