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Obama expected to lead tributes to hero of civil rights movement John Lewis


Respected: A picture of the late John Lewis in his youth. Photo: REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage

Respected: A picture of the late John Lewis in his youth. Photo: REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage

Respected: A picture of the late John Lewis in his youth. Photo: REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage

John Lewis was lauded as a warrior and a hero during a ceremony yesterday at the Georgia Capitol, where the civil rights icon who represented much of Atlanta in US Congress will lie in repose before a funeral service that at least two former presidents are expected to attend.

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said Mr Lewis called on "America to be America again", referencing the poem in which Langston Hughes reproaches the country for not living up to its ideals.

"Until his last days, he was calling on America to be America again in his words and deeds," she said, citing his visit to the Black Lives Matter street mural in Washington, DC, as well as a videoconference he participated in with former president Barack Obama.

Georgia Governor Brian Kemp called Mr Lewis a "beloved Georgian, an American hero and a friend to all who sought a better, fairer, more united society."

"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 ... will inspire all of us to do the hard necessary work to overcome our shared challenges and emerge stronger," Mr Kemp said.

Among the other guests at the ceremony was Martin Luther King III, the son of the great civil rights leader who Mr Lewis joined on the podium in the March on Washington.

Mr King brought his 12-year-old daughter, Yolanda, saying her presence was an appropriate tribute to Mr Lewis.

"Whenever he saw young people, he always made a bee line for them to encourage them. His entire career was about lifting up the next generation," Mr King said.

People lined the streets as the hearse carrying Mr Lewis's body moved through the town.

It stopped briefly in front of a mural of Mr Lewis with the word "Hero" before arriving at the state Capitol, where it was met by Mr Kemp and Ms Bottoms.

Members of the public later filed into the state Capitol rotunda to pay their respects to Mr Lewis, pausing to take photographs in front of his flag-draped coffin.

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The funeral service in Atlanta is scheduled for today, followed by a private burial.

Mr Obama will be attending Mr Lewis's service and is expected to address mourners, according to a person familiar with the funeral arrangements who was not authorised to speak publicly.

President George W Bush's office said the former president and first lady Laura Bush also will attend.

Yesterday's service was part of a series of public remembrances for Mr Lewis that began over the weekend.

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