Watch CBS News

John Lewis crosses Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma a final time

John Lewis crosses Edmund Pettus Bridge — CBS News Special Report
CBS News Special Report: John Lewis crosses Edmund Pettus Bridge for final time 01:13:21

Civil rights icon John Lewis' body is being carried across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, on Sunday. It's the bridge that he crossed in the march to Montgomery on March 7, 1965, a day that would become known as "Bloody Sunday."

"John was determined to fight for equality and justice, putting his own life on the line in the service of others and a brighter future for everyone," said Congresswoman Terri Sewell on Sunday. "John crossed bridges so many times — insisting that our nation live up to the ideals upon which it was founded. As he always said, he gave a little blood on that bridge."

Lewis' casket was brought across the bridge in a horse-drawn caisson, following the route he took on "Bloody Sunday." People in the crowd shouted "thank you, John Lewis!" and "good trouble!"

State troopers saluted his casket as a military honor guard lifted his casket from the horse-drawn carriage to an automobile hearse, The Associated Press reported.

APTOPIX John Lewis Remembered
The casket of Rep. John Lewis moves over the Edmund Pettus Bridge by horse drawn carriage during a memorial service for Lewis, Sunday, July 26, 2020, in Selma, Alabama. John Bazemore / AP

Lewis will lie in repose in the Alabama Capitol on Sunday afternoon. His body will lie in state at the U.S. Capitol next week before a private funeral at Atlanta's Ebenezer Baptist Church, where Martin Luther King Jr. once presided.

A series of events honoring Lewis began Saturday in his hometown of Troy, Alabama, where he was honored by friends and family at Troy University, followed by a service at Brown Chapel A.M.E. Church in Selma.

Since Lewis' death, there has been a movement to rename the Edmund Pettus Bridge after him.

On March 7, 1965, Lewis was one of the leaders of the march across the bridge. Retracing his steps more than 30 years later with CBS News' Rita Braver in 1998, Lewis described what he saw that day: "At this point I could see lines and lines of state troopers."

John Lewis Remembered
Flower petals lie on the Edmund Pettus Bridge ahead of Rep. John Lewis' casket crossing during a memorial service for Lewis, Sunday, July 26, 2020, in Selma, Alabama. Brynn Anderson / AP

The marchers were beaten with canes, clubs and whips, and sprayed with tear gas. Lewis, who was in the front, was the first person to be hit. 

"I was hit in the head by a state trooper with a nightstick," Lewis said. "I really believe to this day that I saw death."

Braver asked Lewis, "When you look back and see those pictures of young John Lewis and his friends, do you wonder how you got the courage to do what you did then?"

John Lewis Remembered
A military honor guard carries the casket of Rep. John Lewis during a memorial service at Brown Chapel A.M.E. Church, Saturday, July 25, 2020, in Selma, Alabama. John Bazemore / AP

"We had to do it. We had to do it," he replied. "I think there's some force, and sometimes I call it the spirit of history, that maybe, just maybe, tracked us down and said, 'This is your time, and you must do it.  If you don't, who will?'"

In 2015, he crossed the bridge again to commemorate the 50th anniversary, this time with President Obama at his side. Mr. Obama described the march as "not a clash of armies, but a clash of wills; a contest to determine the meaning of America."

Lewis died July 17 at the age of 80 following a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer in December. He was the last surviving speaker from the March on Washington in 1963.

Representative John Lewis honored at Edmund Pettus Bridge 01:42
View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.