Jul 25, 2020
John Lewis Funeral & Memorial Service Transcript in Troy, Alabama
A funeral was held on July 25 for Representative John Lewis, a U.S. Congressman and civil rights hero who died at the age of 80 on July 17. Read the transcript of the memorial service & eulogies here.
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Jack Hawkins: (04:23)
…and on many of those occasions that their delegations were actually led by Congressman Lewis as they came home to make that pilgrimage to Selma, they would always stop at the Rosa Parks Museum, and he became so proficient during his more than a dozen tours that he could give the big tour that our tour guides give. And so we were proud to share that and proud to share that relationship with him of Ms. Rosa Parks.
Jack Hawkins: (04:55)
Over the years, he received much recognition when he would come home and on an academic basis in 2006 he actually was awarded the Hall-Waters Prize for Southern Literature for his memoir Walking With The Wind, and if you haven’t, I’m sure all of you have read it but I encourage everybody to read it. It’s an excellent autobiography that outlined his non-violent struggle that literally defined his life.
Jack Hawkins: (05:26)
Today as I close, I wanted to share with you one lasting tribute that we’re very proud of and I want to thank the family for agreeing to do this. Almost two decades ago, we began to offer in this community during African-American History Month the leadership conference and it has become truly one of the most important scheduled events during the year here, but I think it has also become one of the most important leadership experiences across this country. Quite frankly it has included a who’s who in the Civil Rights Movement. Speakers have included extraordinary people like the Reverend Joseph Lowery, Ambassador Andrew Young, Dr. Bernice King, Ms. Juanita Abernathy, and so many others whose names you would know in a minute. In 2018, we also as we hosted Congressman Lewis home for the John Lewis Day in Pike County, he also delivered the keynote address to that conference. I want to make sure that all of you know about the conference and that you are invited to join us in February when we host that conference. Each year, perpetually, it will be known as the Congressman John Lewis Leadership Conference. It’s our belief and I hope the family shares this that it’s a fitting tribute a true Trojan. May God bless the memory of a very good man. Thank you.
Jason Reeves: (08:00)
On behalf of the citizens of Troy and Pike County, Troy City Council, three of whose members are here, I want to offer to the family the prayers of our community and the pride that we have that Congressman Lewis has come home. I have frankly never felt more unworthy to be in front of a microphone short of my salvation and the opportunity to be a father, I don’t know if I’ve ever felt as unworthy of being on this stage but as a leader of this community, I want to offer a few thoughts to the family. Three things have come to mind for me over this past week. I have a longstanding connection to the Lewis family. In the summer of 1986 when he was making his successful run for Congress, his brother Grant coached me and [Darus 00:09:35] on the all-star team for the city of Troy. Darus was sure a lot better ball player than I was but they let me hang around and the thing that kept coming to mind and that I would see … Grant lived by example. He wasn’t one of those coaches that hollered or had to yell.
Jason Reeves: (10:01)
He lived that way and that’s what John Robert Lewis did. He was a man of action. He was a man of action. I was looking at something this week from his academic record and the counselor had written at the bottom “appears shy but verbally says he is going on to school to be somebody.” I thought about that word be and how be is not only a linking verb but it’s an action verb. I thought about all the actions that he had taken and the example that he had been and the courage that it took to do those things. It was otherworldly courage and I thought about John 14:27 when Jesus says, “My peace I give to you.” Not as the world gives, let your heart not be troubled. Don’t be afraid, and anyone who knew John Robert Lewis knew that Jesus Christ was his Lord and savior and through the Holy Spirit, he had a peace that gave him the courage to do all the things that he did.
Jason Reeves: (11:38)
I read a story years ago about people saying, “Well, don’t you think we ought to let it settle down? Don’t you think we ought to let it cool down?” He said, “No, we’re going to march. You’re right, but we’re going to march.” That action has inspired this community and has inspired this world. We had the opportunity during Alabama’s bicentennial to honor one person in the 200 year history of this community, and it was a very special day for this community when we had as Chancellor Hawkins mentioned John Lewis Day and I’ll never forget him doing the happy dance that day and we got a wonderful photo of him doing it and I know that when he passed, he did the happy dance into the gates of heaven.
Jason Reeves: (12:49)
That day, I told a little bit of this story that day, but in 1986, that summer that I was playing ball, that same September that he won the runoff, a song was released by a group called Bruce Hornsby and The Range called That’s The Way It Is, and as I pulled up to the library that day when we were going to honor him and I stopped and I was just sort of trying to take my breath and get ready, I was excited, I was nervous, it was going to be a wonderful day and that song came on the radio and i was under the crest of the hill and the only thing I could see on the cupola of the library was the banner for Congressman Lewis and the second verse of that song is “Hey little boy you can’t go where the others go because you don’t look like they do.” He said, “Hey old man, how can you stand to think that way and did you really think about it when you made the rules?” He said, “That’s just the way it is. Some things will never change, but don’t you believe them.”
Jason Reeves: (14:03)
John Lewis didn’t believe them and he changed the world. He was a man of action and he was a man of tangible things, and I’ll leave you with this. As I stood down there and I watched his body be brought in over the top of the casket, I saw an Alabama state trooper and he became a figure known around the world for action on the Edmund Pettus Bridge, confronting Alabama state troopers. Now Alabama state troopers will lead his body around this state as we celebrate his life, and even more than that, my dear friend Charles Ward, who will bury his mother on Monday, he and I have
Jason Reeves: (15:03)
Ward who will bury his mother on Monday, he and I have talked a lot this last week or so, but every one of those state troopers that wears that uniform works for Colonel Charles Ward. Charles Ward’s an African American man. And he is the Colonel of the Alabama State Troopers not because of the color of his skin, but because of the content of his character and because of the ability that he has. And that’s what John Lewis did for Troy, for Pike County, for the United States and for the world. And I’m honored to be here, this community is honored that you’re here and we mourn and grieve with you and pray for you. Thank you very much.
Rev. Darryl Caldwell: (15:59)
May we pray. God of our strength, God of our struggle, your mercy is everlasting and your truth endures to all generations. Our hearts are saddened by the transition of the inspirational icon, Congressman John Robert Lewis. John has left the mortal trappings of time to engage in the affairs of eternity. Denied the therapy to properly mourn, therapy found in the unrestricted fellowship of family and friends, we yet possess the resolve to say, thank you, gracious one. Thank you God of our weary years. Thank you God of our silent tears. Thank you God who heard our cry and pitied our of groan. Thank you, benevolent Father of us all for the commitment, the contributions, the compassion and the character of John Robert Lewis. Thank you, merciful master for the boy from Troy, who was the conscience of Congress.
Rev. Darryl Caldwell: (17:21)
Thank you, self sufficient sustainer for embedding in John Lewis the actuality that Christianity and politics can coexist ethically and with equity. Thank you, holy one for John Lewis whose Christianity shaped his politics and John never allowing politics to disfigure his Christianity. Most Holy, thank you for John Lewis, who embraced the redemptive calls of it, engaging himself in good trouble. Good trouble allowed John to cross bridges blockaded by legalized lynch men who were inspired by the false notion of racial supremacy. Thank you, Father of all mercy for John who wore the mantle of good trouble and did not flinch in the face of fear when confronted by deputized demons, who intended to discourage, deny and ultimately destroy the just calls of John Robert Lewis.
Rev. Darryl Caldwell: (18:31)
Thank you, true and righteous judge for John Lewis and his engagement in good trouble. Good trouble that confronted institutionalized racism, good trouble that compelled this boy from Troy, the conscious of congress to deny himself and take up the cross daily as he championed the cause of the disinherited, despised and disenfranchised. We ask you, Oh God, thou who has brought us thus far along the way to do what only our God can do, John’s God can do, comfort his family, preserve his legacy and promote John’s passions. A passion that grants everyone the inalienable rights of liberty and justice for all. In the name of he who died that we might live, Jesus, the Christ. Amen.
Speaker 3: (19:56)
Isaiah, chapter 57, verse one and two, the righteous perish and no man layeth in heart and merciful men are taken away. None consider that the righteous is taken away from the evil to come. They shall enter into peace. They shall rest in their beds, each one walking in the ever rightness of God’s word.
Speaker 4: (21:00)
Second Timothy, chapter four, commencing with verse number six. Well, I’m ready to be offered and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight. I have finished my course. I have kept the faith. Henceforth, there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge shall give me at that day and not to me only, but unto all of them also that love is appearing, the word of God for the people of God. (silence)
Henry Grant Lewis: (22:49)
Good morning, to our special guests, Dr. Hawkins [inaudible 00:00:22:57]… Welcome everyone, but on behalf of the family, I would like to welcome and thank each of you for coming. I had took the time to plan this long, I would say, list of accolades that John had accomplished, then I said to myself, “They know about all of that, I need to tell them some things about John that they might not know.” The John Lewis that I knew, the John Lewis that I want you to know about is the John Lewis that would gravitate toward the least of us. Would drop by his four year old nephew’s birthday party, he would feed hungry and homeless on Thanksgiving day. Took the time to go by a young man’s house in Troy, that had portrayed a young John Lewis in his Black history class. Asking his young brothers to be part of his special guest list while receiving the medal of freedom from President Barack Obama. Making a surprise visit to his great nephew’s fifth grade class at Charles Henderson. Always attending family functions even if it could only stay for an hour or so, because of his busy schedule. He was always concerned about the health and wellbeing was family and members of others. To sum up his life of John Lewis, I would say he worked a lifetime to help others and made the world a better place in which to live.
Henry Grant Lewis: (24:44)
And on a personal note, I talked to John on Thursday, the day before he passed and we would always have these interesting conversations. He would always ask me, “How’s everybody doing?” No matter how bad he felt. So we exchanged the love we have for each other, Thursday night rather. And his last word was, “How’s the family doing? How’s everybody doing?” And I said, “They’re doing fine.” He said, “Will you make sure to tell them that I asked about them?” And a little bit of a humorous side, when John was first sworn into Congress, I think I got my year right, in 1986, I was there. And during the swearing in ceremony, right before the swearing in ceremony, he looked up, he knew where I was sitting, and he looked and he gave me the thumbs up and I gave him the thumbs up back. So after the event was over, we was together and I asked him, I said, “John, what were you thinking when you gave me the thumbs up?” He said, “I was thinking, this is a long way from the cotton fields of Alabama.”
Henry Grant Lewis: (26:06)
And those are the memories that I have with my brother. And we would have these late night conversations and early morning conversations were he would call me 11, 12 o’clock at night, and he’ll ask me, “Are you asleep?” And I’d say, “No, I’m not asleep, John.” But actually I was sleeping. And he’ll say, “Have you heard from Freddie or [Vivie 00:26:30] lately?” I’d say, “Yes, I talked to them a few days ago.””Well, I think I’ll call them.” I said, “Don’t call them tonight, call them tomorrow.” I said, “Because it’s late.” But that’s the John Lewis that we grew to love and our family, as natural, will miss him. But he was at peace, he was at peace and he was ready to meet the Lord. Thank you, [inaudible 00:26:55].
Jackson Lewis Brewster: (26:54)
Good morning everybody.
Henry Grant Lewis: (26:54)
Jackson Lewis Brewster: (27:10)
My name is Jackson Lewis Brewster and Congressman John Lewis was my uncle and my hero, and it’s up to us to keep his legacy alive. Thanks you guys.
Rosa Mae Tyner: (27:43)
Good morning, John Robert Lewis, my big brother, humble man, simple man, and a man of God. He always wanted to improve the lives of others without any concern for himself. His deep faith in God made him extraordinary. He was fearless by trusting in God, because he was chosen. He lived with the never ending desire to help others. He often told us, if you see something wrong, do something. 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, necessary trouble. See something, say something, do something. Thank you.
Rosa Mae Tyner: (28:40)
Ethel Mae Tyner: (30:38)
Ethel Mae Tyner: (30:38)
Lewis [inaudible 00:04: 33]. To write a tribute to a person who you have known all of your life was hard for me, but I’m thankful for the treasure of memories that we shared with him. Preaching to us out of that old pecan tree. He would preach and he probably did the praying also. But you know, Robert, most everyone call him John, but he always been just Robert to us, his family, our brother. Robert been preaching in justice and equality, even at a young age. One of my brothers mention in the cotton field. We was farmers, our fathers. Everybody was farmers. And I remember so long ago when the clouds would come over the sun, he would start singing and preaching. And that the song he would always start with, “There’s a Dark Cloud Arising, Let’s Go Home.” Let’s go home.
Ethel Mae Tyner: (36:10)
And he was also afraid of the thunder and lightning, but he stood by. He always was a fighter. And you know, now when I look at all of the accolades, the pictures that I see all the time, and I think about where he came from. Humble means. Humble, always. And you know, and I don’t want to mention all of his accolades because y’all already know them. Y’all know these. You already knew it. But he came from a humble beginning, always humble and respectful to other.
Ethel Mae Tyner: (37:05)
So to my brother, Robert, this is not a goodbye. It just a different kind of hello. And you know, when we talk, he always say, “How are you doing?” And he had this, “I’m well.” So, rest well, Robert, rest well. Thank you.
Henry Grant Lewis: (37:31)
My name is Freddie Lewis. Just like my sister said, he was just Robert. And we all call him, we known him by Robert. And I’m from Michigan. I stayed in Michigan. And John had a speaking engagement at some college in Michigan, way up north. And I drove a good distance to he him speak. He spoke about the different thing he did to the college. When it was over with, he asked was there any question. So I said, I stood up. I stood up and say, “Yes. Robert.” And he said, “Anybody, call me Robert from way up here,” he said, “they got to know me personally.” I said, “I’m your brother, Freddie.” He’s like, “Got a brother done drove way up and hear me speak.” And I wasn’t here till like my brother, Grant did, with him every other, close to him, but every time he would come close to Michigan, anywhere else, I was there. You know, to hear.
Henry Grant Lewis: (38:51)
Like I said, he was our brother. Brother Robert. He wasn’t no John. He was just Robert. And I loved him. Okay. Thank you.
Speaker 4: (39:19)
Good morning. I told my pastor I wasn’t going to preach, but I am going to talk about my dear brother, John. What can I say about Congressman John Robert Lewis? Well, he was a congressman to most. John to others. Robert and Uncle Robert to family. But the most important role he played for me was being my older brother. I can tell you so much about John Robert Lewis, but we would be here all day. And his work over the years has spoken for him. One of my childhood memories is when we was younger. Our mother would call me Robert and call Robert me because we looked so much alike even though we were nine years apart. I remember the day when John left home. Mother told him not to get in trouble, not to get in the way, and be particular. But we all know that John got in trouble, got in the way, but it was a good trouble. John was different from the rest of the family and he would have thoughts that all of the troubles he got himself into, which changed the world.
Speaker 4: (40:45)
I am so honored that John was my brother and he will live forever in all our hearts. So keep John legacy alive. Let’s get out and vote. And in John voice, keep your eyes on the prize. I love you brother. Rest on, and I will see you again one day. Thank you.
Dottie Peoples: (41:38)
I know where we are, but let the church say amen.
Dottie Peoples: (41:42)
I’m just honored and glad to be here. And I want to thank the family for including me in the celebration of my friend. I heard the mayor say that John did a dance. Well, every time we run program together, he’d been just on pins and needles waiting for his favorite song and getting ready to dance with Dottie. Well, you know, Luther Vandross did a song “Dance With my Father,” but today, John, this is going to be the final dance with Dottie. You and me are going to dance after this song. How many of you know God is an on time God? He may not come when you want him, but he’s always on time. If you want to get on your feet, if you want to clap your hands, if you want to stomp your feet, I want you to sing with me right now. (singing) Oh, no. Is that the devil up in here?
Dottie Peoples: (42:54)
Well, you know what? E flat. (singing)
Dottie Peoples: (49:20)
Rev. Darryl Caldwell: (49:29)
Harder yet may be the fight. Right may often yield to might. Wickedness awhile may reign. Satan’s calls may seem to gain. There is a God that rules above with the hand of power and a heart of love. And if I’m right, I know he’ll fight all of my battles. I shall be free someday. As we depart this place, may the humility of John Robert Lewis keep us focused on serving others. May his willingness to cause good trouble prevent us from tolerating injustice. May his example inspire a new generation. May the protection of God, the father, be upon all people. May the love of God, the son, be evident in our actions and the guidance of God, the Holy Spirit, order our steps in paths of righteousness now and in the days to come. Amen.
Speaker 7: (50:59)
Good morning. Thank you so much to everyone who attended this beautiful service for the congressman. We would like to give a little bit of direction. At this time, we would ask that all cameras go dark. So any cameras, please turn them off. And we would ask out of respect for the family that we do not take any photographs.