Detroit residents pay respects to Parks - East Valley Tribune: Nation / World

Detroit residents pay respects to Parks

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Posted: Tuesday, November 1, 2005 11:40 am | Updated: 8:16 am, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

DETROIT - People stood in a line that spilled out into the street Tuesday as they waited to pay their final respects to the late civil rights leader Rosa Parks.

Angela Gilliam took her two children out of school to join the throngs filing past Parks' casket in solemn tribute.

"She was our queen mother, and we have to honor her," said Gilliam, a 43-year-old Detroit resident

Parks was 92 when she died Oct. 24 in Detroit. She lay in honor in Montgomery, Ala., and in the Capitol Rotunda in Washington before her body was returned Monday night to the city where she had lived since 1957.

Her mahogany casket was placed in the rotunda of the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History for round-the-clock viewing through early Wednesday.

The casket was surrounded by floral arrangements and enlarged photos from her life. Two white-gloved sheriff's deputies stood motionless at either end of the casket.

"It's very symbolic. You feel the love. You feel the history. It's almost sacred," said Darlene Flowers, 40, of Detroit, who decided to go to work late so she and a friend could attend the viewing Tuesday.

Thousands already were waiting in a line a quarter-mile long by the time the museum doors opened Monday night. Some members of the crowd sang "We Shall Overcome" as light rain fell steadily.

Tony Dotson, 43, a maintenance worker from Detroit, stood near the front of the line Monday night.

"I appreciate what a blessing she was, and I'm thankful she was right here in Detroit and we didn't have to travel far to see her."

Deborah Lee Horne, 56, of Detroit, said she was encouraged by the sight of so many children and teenagers waiting. "I think what she did needs to be highlighted for young people," she said. "If not, they have no idea."

Viewing was to continue until 5 a.m. Wednesday, with Parks' funeral to be held at 11 a.m. Wednesday at Greater Grace Temple Church. Former President Clinton and singer Aretha Franklin were scheduled to attend. Parks was to be buried next to her husband and mother in Detroit's Woodlawn Cemetery.

In a three-hour memorial service Monday at historic Metropolitan A.M.E. Church in Washington, Parks was remembered for the example she set with a simple act of defiance: refusing to give up her seat to a white man on a Montgomery city bus on Dec. 1, 1955.

Oprah Winfrey, who was born in Mississippi during segregation, said Parks' stand "changed the trajectory of my life and the lives of so many other people in the world."

Parks' memorial brought together leaders of both political parties, from Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff to Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., and Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean.

Parks is the first woman to lie in honor in the Rotunda, sharing the tribute given to Abraham Lincoln, John F. Kennedy and other national leaders. Capitol Police estimated the crowd at more than 30,000 but some participants said it was far bigger.

Parks was a 42-year-old tailor's assistant at a Montgomery, Ala., department store when she was arrested and fined $10 plus $4 in court costs. That triggered a 381-day boycott of the bus system led by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in December 1956 that segregation on city buses was unconstitutional, giving momentum to the battle against laws that separated the races in public accommodations and businesses throughout the South.

Parks' act exposed her and her husband, Raymond, to harassment and death threats, and they lost their jobs in Montgomery. They moved to Detroit with Rosa Parks' mother, Leona McCauley, in 1957.

Rosa Parks held a series of low-paying jobs before U.S. Rep. John Conyers Jr. hired her in 1965 to work in his Detroit office. Conyers, speaking during the Washington memorial service, recalled a 1990 visit to Detroit by Nelson Mandela.

The former South African president led the crowd in a chant of Parks' name, "which made us realize that this is an international phenomenon that we celebrate," Conyers said. "Rosa Parks is worldwide."

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