Former President Barack Obama joined fellow past presidents Thursday in remembering late Rep. John Lewis, who died earlier this month at 80 years old after battling cancer.
George W. Bush and Bill Clinton were among those who gathered to honor the late civil rights icon at his funeral, which was held in Atlanta at Ebenezer Baptist Church, where the late Martin Luther King Jr. served as pastor.
President Trump and former President Jimmy Carter, 95, did not attend, but a letter from Carter was read at the funeral. During the eulogy, Obama admired Lewis as “a man of pure joy and unbreakable perseverance.”
Obama, the nation’s first Black president, said Lewis was a mentor to him and a hero.
“He believed that in all of us, there exists the capacity for great courage,” Obama said, “that in all of us there is a longing to do what’s right, that in all of us there is a willingness to love all people, and to extend to them their God-given rights to dignity and respect.”
“He was a good and kind and gentle man,” Obama added in his 40-minute speech. “He believed in us, even when we don’t believe in ourselves.”
Former president Bush remembered Lewis as an “American saint.”
“From Freedom Summer to Selma, John Lewis always looked outward not inward,” Bush remarked. “He always thought of others. He always thought of preaching the gospel in word and in deed, insisting that hate and fear had to be answered with love and hope.”
Clinton too made heartwarming comments about Lewis.
“John Lewis was a walking rebuke to people who thought, ‘well, we ain’t there yet and we have been working a long time,” Clinton said. “Isn’t it time to bag it?’ He kept moving. He hoped for and imagined and lived and worked and moved for his beloved community.”
As Urban Hollywood 411 previously reported, Lewis revealed in December that he had been diagnosed with stage IV pancreatic cancer. He said at the time he was determined to fight the disease.
He passed away on July 17, at age 80.