Civil rights icon Lewis lauded as hero at Georgia Capitol

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A mourner pauses by the casket of Rep. John Lewis lying in repose at the state capital, Wednesday, July 29, 2020, in Atlanta. Lewis, who carried the struggle against racial discrimination from Southern battlegrounds of the 1960s to the halls of Congress, died Friday, July 17, 2020. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

ATLANTA – John Lewis was lauded as a warrior and a hero during a ceremony Wednesday at the Georgia Capitol, where the civil rights icon who represented much of Atlanta in 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 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, D.C., as well as a videoconference he participated in with former President Barack Obama.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp called 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,” Kemp said.

Kemp presented the Lewis family with a folded Georgia state flag.

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

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