More than 1,000 attend Troy Davis funeral

A line of people wait outside the Jonesville Baptist Church before the funeral of Troy Davis in Savannah, Ga., Saturday, Oct. 1, 2011. Davis died by injection for the 1989 slaying of off-duty Savannah police officer Mark MacPhail. (AP Photo/Stephen Morton)
Stephen Morton

Last Updated 3:46 p.m. ET

SAVANNAH — More than 1,000 family members and supporters gathered in Georgia on Saturday to say farewell to Troy Davis, who insisted even until his execution that he was innocent.

The funeral at Jonesville Baptist Church in Savannah opened with a slideshow of photos of Davis in his blue-trimmed prison uniform with his mother, sister and other family members.

The service, which lasted three and a half hours, took on a political tone with speakers calling for the death penalty to be abolished.

"Troy's last words that night were he told us to keep fighting until his name is cleared in Georgia," said Benjamin Jealous, head of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, a leading civil rights group. "But most important, keep fighting until the death penalty is abolished and this can never be done to anyone else."

Troy Anthony Davis
An undated photo of Death Row inmate Troy Davis.
AP/Georgia Dept. of Corrections

The 42-year-old Davis was executed Sept. 21 for the 1989 slaying of Savannah police officer Mark MacPhail. Courts ultimately upheld his death sentence, despite emotional pleas for his life from thousands across the globe.

The Saturday funeral was also attended by Larry Cox, executive director of Amnesty International, and comedian and activist Dick Gregory.

Davis' 17-year-old nephew, DeJaun Davis-Correia said his uncle, who spent hours helping him with homework over the phone, would want his loved ones to stay upbeat.

"You really shouldn't be sad all the time, you should be happy and be positive. That's the attitude my uncle instilled in me," he said.

Blue and white roses were placed on the casket because of Davis' love for the Dallas Cowboys pro football team.

The Rev. Raphael Warnock, pastor at Atlanta's Ebenezer Baptist Church where the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. preached, delivered the eulogy.

"I did not come here all the way from Atlanta to tell you this is God's will," said Warnock, who served as a spiritual adviser to Davis on death row. "God's will is not revealed in this tragedy."

On Friday at a church memorial Davis was remembered as a gentle man who faced his execution with grace and dignity.

More than 250 people, including NAACP president Benjamin Jealous and comedian and civil rights activist Dick Gregory, jammed the New Life Apostolic Temple in Davis' hometown of Savannah for the memorial that served as a prelude to Saturday's funeral. Friends, pastors, anti-death penalty activists and Davis' lawyer all took turns at a podium behind his closed casket, decorated with a spray of white and purple flowers.

Supporters remember Troy Davis at memorial

Longtime friend Earl Redman, who said he'd known Davis since age 8, told the crowd Friday that during prison visits Davis would often say that he expected to die in the death chamber.

"He looked me in the eye and he told me, 'Don't let me die in vain. Don't let my name die in vain,"' Redman said as a church usher tore paper towels off a roll for teary attendees to dry their eyes.

The Rev. Randy Loney, a Macon pastor who often visited Davis in prison, said he was always struck by Davis' gentle nature despite the death sentence looming over him. Referring to the catchphrase adopted by his supporters — "I am Troy Davis" — Loney said he came to realize that "in a lot of ways, we are not Troy Davis."

"We did not wake up every morning and go to sleep every evening with the specter of the executioner in our eyes," he said.