July 28 (UPI) -- The public paid tribute to civil rights leader and longtime Rep. John Lewis as he lay in state for the final day on Tuesday before he will be moved to his native Georgia.
Colleagues and friends, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Vice President Mike Pence and former Vice President Joe Biden, paid tribute Monday during an invitation-only ceremony before the public viewing period began outside the Capitol as a safety precaution due to COVID-19 pandemic.
Thousands of mourners wrapped around the Supreme Court Monday evening for the public viewing while attempting to social distance 6 feet apart before reaching the U.S. Capitol's East Front Steps where the civil rights icon rested at the top, The Washington Post reported.
The public viewing, which extended until 10 p.m. Tuesday, followed a service in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda Monday.
Lewis was the first black lawmaker to lie in state in the Rotunda, joining other famous historic figures including Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy, and the second to lie in state in the Capitol following Rep. Elijah Cummings. Lewis' body laid upon the same catafalque that Lincoln's body did. Cummings was the first lawmaker to lie in state in the Capitol, but was honored in Statuary Hall, not in the Rotunda.
President Donald Trump did not attend, as he'd left for a trip to North Carolina. Trump told reporters at the White House Monday that he won't attend any memorial service for Lewis this week.
Lewis, 80, died of pancreatic cancer on July 17. His body arrived at the Capitol Monday after a procession through Washington, D.C., where scores of people lined the streets and paid their respects, according to The Washington Post. The procession passed notable landmarks, including the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial and Black Lives Matter Plaza.
A recording of Lewis' 1963 March on Washington speech was played from a loudspeaker at the Black Lives Matter Plaza and when Lewis arrived in state a record of his 2014 commencement address at Emory University was played.
In the commencement address, he told students: "You must find a way to get in trouble. Good trouble. Necessary trouble."
"At the end, you saw something that I have never seen, at least at a commemoration, and that is that the entire group of members rose and gave a standing ovation that looked like it would not stop," Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., and a close friend of Lewis, said after the ceremony. "That was by far the most moving moment."
Norton, 83, met Lewis while he was working in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, which led sit-ins at segregated lunch counters along with voter drives. She also witnessed his historic speech at the March on Washington and remembered when he was arrested while protesting for civil rights through nonviolent resistance.
"In SNCC, John was respected because he put his life on the line," Norton said. "He got to be chair of SNCC not because he was the strongest, not because he was the smartest - - but because he was the bravest. Pure and simple."
Norton added that although he was a civil rights hero, he remained humble.
"The humility was very deep," she said. "The humility was part of his nonviolence."
Lewis led SNCC for three years in the 1960s, including service as chairman when he led over 600 people in the Selma-to-Montgomery march for voting rights, known as "Bloody Sunday," and he suffered a skull fracture after state troopers beat him to the ground with a nightstick on the Edmund Pettus Bridge.
The march led to President Lyndon Johnson signing the Voting Rights Act into law six months later.
In 2013, the Supreme Court struck down a key provision of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that determined nine states with a history of discrimination would require federal permission before making changes to voting procedures.
Lewis described the provision that the Shelby vs. Holder decision struck down as "the heart and soul of the Voting Rights Act," which was the "preclearance formula," to ensure that the burden was not on the citizens whose rights were violated, in a statement last month.
"The majority argued that blatant, racist discrimination is rare; looking at the current state of our country, we know this to be false," Lewis said in the statement.
Norton said the best way to honor Lewis's legacy would be to pass a bill named after him that would fully restore the protections of the Voting Rights Act.
In December, the Democratic-led House passed legislation to restore the Voting Rights Act, but since then it has languished in the Republican-controlled Senate with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refusing to hold hearings or move towards a Senate vote.
On Monday, the House approved renaming the bill in his honor, and amending the 1965 law to create a new way of measuring if states require oversight for violating voting rights.
Rep. Marcia Fudge, D-Ohio, who heads a House subcommittee on elections and held a Tuesday hearing on U.S. territories' voting rights, said lawmakers who are praising Lewis, need "to put up or shut up."
"They can't continue to give lip service and not support what somebody like John stood for," she said.
Following the viewing Tuesday, Lewis' body will be taken to Atlanta and he will lie in state at the Georgia State Capitol for four hours on Wednesday afternoon.
A private funeral service is scheduled for Thursday at Atlanta's Ebenezer Baptist Church Horizon Sanctuary, and Lewis will subsequently be buried at the city's South-View Cemetery.