John Lewis, the civil rights icon and U.S. Representative of Georgia, crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge one last time on Sunday during a memorial in his home state of Alabama Sunday morning. The flag-draped casket was pulled across the bridge, with rose petals on the ground and Lewis' family behind him. Lewis died at age 80 on July 17 following a battle with stage 4 pancreatic cancer.
Lewis joined other civil rights activists in March 1965 during the march from Selma to Montgomery to draw national attention to voting rights reform needed in Alabama. The marchers were met with police, who beat many of the Black activists, including Lewis, in what became known as Bloody Sunday. They still returned a few days later to complete their march to Montgomery. Eventually, their movement led to the Voting Rights Act being passed in 1966. Lewis often returned to the bridge during his life, including in 2015, when he was joined by President Barack Obama to mark the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday.
On Saturday, Lewis' hometown Troy held a memorial at Troy University, where Lewis could not enroll when he was a student because he was Black, notes the Montgomery Advertiser. "When I look at all of the accolades, the pictures I see all the time, I think about where he came from," Lewis' sister, Ethel Mae Tyner, said Saturday. "He came from humble beginnings, he was always humble and respectful."
During a service at Brown Chapel AME Church in Selma, U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell reminded mourners there was still work to be done. Sewell, whose district includes parts of Birmingham, said she hoped Lewis would inspire the Voting Rights Act to be renewed, seven years after the Supreme Court struck most of it down. "John never gave up hope," Sewell said. "His optimism is what he inspired in all of us. We're all infused with that optimism. Can't you hear him? Find a way to get in the way. Good trouble. Necessary trouble."
"Good trouble" was a phrase used often during the memorial in Troy. Rosa Tyner, another of Lewis' sisters, said he told them to do something if they saw something wrong. "His actions showed us just that. In a time when going to jail was perceived as trouble, he reminded us that it was good trouble," she said, reports PEOPLE. "Necessary trouble."
Lewis was elected to Congress in 1986 and served 17 terms. In 2011, Obama presented Lewis with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. In his statement on Lewis' death, Obama noted that Lewis "loved this country so much that he risked his life and his blood so that it might live up to its promise." The former president added, "And through the decades, he not only gave all of himself to the cause of freedom and justice but inspired generations that followed to try to live up to his example."
Lewis' body will lie in state at the U.S. Capitol on Monday. There will be an invitation-only arrival ceremony first, then members of the public will be allowed to pay their respects, reports NPR.