Four presidents expected at King funeral - East Valley Tribune: News

Four presidents expected at King funeral

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Posted: Tuesday, February 7, 2006 5:09 am | Updated: 3:17 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

LITHONIA, Ga. - Shivering in near-freezing temperatures, hundreds of people waited hours in line Tuesday for one last chance to say goodbye to Coretta Scott King before her funeral.

"There's one word to describe going to go see Coretta - historic. It's good to finally see her at peace," said Robert Jackson, a 34-year-old financial consultant from Atlanta whose 10-year-old daughter, Ebony, persuaded him to take her to the visitation.

The lines had already started forming by 3 a.m. By the time the doors opened at 6:30 a.m., people toward the end were warned that if they stayed they likely wouldn't get into the funeral because of long lines expected there.

An estimated 10,000 people, including four U.S. presidents, were expected to attend the midday funeral at New Birth Missionary Baptist Church, where King's daughter Bernice is a minister.

President Bush ordered flags flown at half-staff in memory of the woman known as the "first lady of the civil rights movement."

King, who carried on her husband's dream of equality for nearly 40 years after the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s death, died Jan. 30 at the age of 78 after battling ovarian cancer and the effects of a stroke.

The president and first lady Laura Bush planned to attend the funeral, along with former presidents Bush, Clinton and Carter and 14 U.S. senators. Maya Angelou, a personal friend of King, was scheduled to speak, and Stevie Wonder and gospel singer Bebe Winans planned to perform.

Delivering the eulogy will be the Kings' youngest child, Bernice, who was 5 when her father was assassinated in 1968 and is perhaps best remembered for the photographs of her lying in her black-veiled mother's lap during her father's funeral.

There have been long lines for all three public viewings in the past three days. More than 157,000 mourners have filed past King's casket, at Ebenezer Baptist Church, where her husband preached, at New Missionary Baptist on Tuesday morning, or at the Georgia Capitol, where King became the first woman and the first black person to lie in honor there.

"I'm here to pay my respects for a woman who has gotten me to the place I am today," said Theresa Wade, of Mapleton. "I believe everyone should pay tribute because the King family has done so much for us."

The funeral followed a day at Martin Luther King Jr.'s old church where Gladys Knight and other performers sang musical tributes to King's widow and where television talk-show host Oprah Winfrey, former Atlanta mayor and King lieutenant Andrew Young and others shared memories of the "first lady of the civil rights movement."

"For me, she embodied royalty. She was the queen. ... You knew she was a force," Winfrey told an audience of 1,700 at a musical celebration in King's honor.

Winfrey laughed as she told how she once persuaded King to get a new hairdo on her TV show. And she became emotional when she told how King, in the week before her death, sent her a handmade quilt that her husband's mother had passed down.

"She leaves us all a better America than the America of her childhood," Winfrey said.

At a service Monday night, the Revs. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton galvanized the crowd with fiery speeches that blasted the government and public figures for trying to make the King legacy their own while doing nothing for world peace of poor black Americans.

"We can't let them take her from us and reduce her to their trophy and not our freedom fighter," Jackson said.

After the funeral, Coretta Scott King's body will be placed in a crypt near her husband's tomb at the King Center, which she built to promote his memory.

Between the tombs is the eternal flame that was placed there years ago in Martin Luther King Jr.'s honor. On the crypt, inscribed in black, is the Bible passage First Corinthians 13:13, which reads: "And now abide Faith, Hope, Love, These Three; but the greatest of these is Love."

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