Obama to deliver eulogy for civil rights icon John Lewis in Atlanta

DETROIT, MI - OCTOBER 26: Former President Barack Obama speaks at a rally to support Michigan democratic candidates at Detroit Cass Tech High School on October 26, 2018 in Detroit, Michigan. Obama, and former Attorney General Eric Holder, who was also at the rally, are among approximately a dozen democrats who were targeted by mail bombs over the past several days. (Photo by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)

(CNN) — Former President Barack Obama will deliver a eulogy for civil rights icon John Lewis on Thursday when the late congressman is honored at a memorial service before his body is laid to rest in Atlanta, according to sources familiar with the former presidents’ plans.

Former Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush also will attend and will participate in the funeral.

There will be a “celebration of life” at Ebenezer Baptist Church Horizon Sanctuary at 11 a.m. ET, according to an announcement from Lewis’ family. A release from the family states that “given COVID-19 precautions, this event is not open to the public. Attendees will be required to wear face and mouth coverings.”

The service will then be followed by interment at South-View Cemetery.

Former President Jimmy Carter — the oldest of the four living former presidents — will not attend, Carter Center spokesperson Soyia Ellison tells CNN in an email Wednesday night.

“The Carters are not traveling these days but are sending their condolences in writing,” Ellison wrote.

Carter, 95, issued a statement when the civil rights icon passed away on July 17, saying that Lewis “made an indelible mark on history through his quest to make our nation more just” and “never shied away from what he called “good trouble” to lead our nation on the path toward human and civil rights.”

Thursday’s events will cap a series of memorial ceremonies paying tribute to the late congressman, who served as the US representative for Georgia’s 5th Congressional District for more than three decades and was widely seen as a moral conscience of Congress because of his decades-long embodiment of the nonviolent fight for civil rights.

Lewis died at the age of 80 following a six-month battle with cancer, a loss that sparked an outpouring of grief and tributes to his life and legacy across the country.

As part of a series of events honoring Lewis over the past week, his body lay in state at the US Capitol in Washington, a tribute reserved for the most distinguished government officials and military officers.

Lewis was a towering figure of the civil rights movement. Angered by the unfairness of the Jim Crow South, he launched what he called “good trouble” with organized protests and sit-ins. In the early 1960s, he was a Freedom Rider, challenging segregation at interstate bus terminals across the South and in the nation’s capital.

A number of lawmakers wore face masks with the message “good trouble” written on them during a ceremony at the US Capitol after Lewis’ casket arrived there earlier this week.

At age 25, Lewis helped lead a march for voting rights on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, where he and other marchers were met by heavily armed state and local police who attacked them with clubs, fracturing Lewis’ skull. Images from that “Bloody Sunday” shocked the nation and galvanized support for the Voting Rights Act of 1965, signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson.

Following a short ceremony outside of Brown Chapel AME Church on Sunday, Lewis’ body traveled on a horse-drawn caisson along several blocks of downtown Selma to the Pettus Bridge, which his flag-draped casket crossed.

The late congressman’s body was taken to the Georgia State Capitol in Atlanta on Wednesday, where Gov. Brian Kemp, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and their spouses could be seen on the Capitol steps waiting to receive the casket.

President Donald Trump said on Monday that he would not pay his respects to Lewis as his body lay in state at the US Capitol.

“No, I won’t be going, no,” Trump said when asked whether he would travel either Monday or Tuesday to honor the late congressman.

The President also avoided a final opportunity to pay in-person tribute on Wednesday at Joint Base Andrews.

Trump departed from the base for Texas around 9:55 a.m. ET, about 30 minutes behind schedule after speaking to reporters at the White House.

A procession with Lewis’ body and his family arrived at Andrews a few minutes later, met by an honor guard. The plane carrying Lewis’ casket, along with a separate aircraft for his family, departed following a brief ceremony.

The two entourages did not overlap on the Andrews tarmac. After days of commemoration and remembrances for Lewis, Trump made no mention of him as he left Washington.

The President did issue a cursory statement on Twitter following Lewis’ death and ordered flags lowered to half staff.

“Saddened to hear the news of civil rights hero John Lewis passing. Melania and I send our prayers to he and his family,” he wrote on Twitter.