Capital mourns civil-rights legend

In a brief ceremony yesterday in the Capitol Rotunda, Washington said goodbye to late civil-rights icon Rosa Parks, whose body had lain in honor there since Sunday evening.

After a reading from the Bible and a short prayer, the military honor guard carried Parks’s casket down the stairs of the East Front to the sound of hymns sung by the Morgan State University choir.
Patrick G. Ryan
Master Sgt. Cynthia Moody salutes the hearse carrying the body of civil-rights pioneer Rosa Parks.

The Parks family, friends and District of Columbia Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) followed closely behind.

As the hearse pulled away, a group of mourners gathered near Constitution Avenue singing “We Shall Overcome” and waving to her family members, who rode three Metro buses draped in purple and black to the memorial service at Metropolitan AME Church.

Parks is the first woman to lie in honor in the Rotunda. She died Oct. 24 at the age of 92.

President Bush and first lady Laura Bush joined members of Congress to pay their respects Sunday.

Senate Chaplain Barry Black led mourners in prayer and lauded Parks for her role in the civil-rights movement. Three wreaths adorned with red, white and blue flowers stood around the casket, representing the House, the Senate and the president.

Honor-guard police officers stood watch around the small casket as tens of thousands of mourners filed past the woman who refused to give up her seat to a white man on an Alabama bus in 1955. Lines were so long Sunday evening that viewing hours, which were originally set to end at midnight, were extended an hour.

Parks’s actions in 1955 sparked a 381-day boycott of the buses by blacks led by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. The boycott became a touchstone of the larger civil-rights movement. Parks was honored in Alabama at St. Paul African Methodist Episcopal Church on Sunday.

Flags will fly at half-staff until tomorrow, when Parks will be laid to rest in Detroit.

On Oct. 27, the Senate passed a motion to honor Parks in the Rotunda by unanimous consent. The House followed suit the next day.