Civil rights pioneer and longtime U.S. Representative John Lewis will lie in state at the Capitol Building on Monday and Tuesday, allowing time for socially distanced tributes to the protégé of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
A Democratic member of Congress from Atlanta since 1987, Lewis endured numerous beatings and arrests in his lifelong fight against segregation and for racial justice. He died on July 17 of pancreatic cancer at age 80.
Lewis’ death came at a time of reckoning across the United States over racial injustice, with widespread and largely peaceful protests condemning unequal police treatment of Black Americans and institutions removing or renaming tributes to former leaders of the pro-slavery Confederacy.
Last month, Lewis joined Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser on a street by the White House painted with a yellow mural – large enough to be seen from space – reading “Black Lives Matter,” honoring the social movement of that name.
The public school district in Fairfax County, Virginia, a suburb of Washington, last week voted to rename the Robert E. Lee High School after Lewis. Lee was the commanding general of the Confederate army in the U.S. Civil War.
An invitation-only arrival ceremony for Lewis’ casket at the Capitol will be held on Monday afternoon and a public viewing will be held on Monday evening and Tuesday, House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said in a joint statement.
Due to concerns over the coronavirus, the public viewing will be held outdoors on the East Front Steps of the Capitol and social distancing will be strictly enforced, the statement said.
Lewis was savagely beaten during the “Bloody Sunday” march across Alabama’s Edmund Pettus Bridge in 1965.