- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 2, 2005

DETROIT (AP) — A church packed with 4,000 mourners celebrated the life of Rosa Parks yesterday in an impassioned, song-filled funeral, with a crowd of notables giving thanks for the humble woman whose act of defiance sparked the civil rights movement.

“The woman we honored today held no public office; She wasn’t a wealthy woman, didn’t appear in the society pages,” said Sen. Barack Obama, Illinois Democrat. “And yet when the history of this country is written, it is this small, quiet woman whose name will be remembered long after the names of senators and presidents have been forgotten.”

The funeral, which stretched well past its three-hour scheduled time, came after a week of remembrances during which Mrs. Parks’ coffin was taken from Detroit, where she died Oct. 24, to Montgomery, Ala., where 50 years ago she refused to give her bus seat to a white man, to Washington, where she became the first woman to lie in honor in the Capitol Rotunda.

Those in the audience at yesterday’s funeral held hands and sang the civil rights anthem “We Shall Overcome” as family members filed past her casket before it was closed.

“Mother Parks, take your rest. You have certainly earned it,” said Bishop Charles Ellis III of Greater Grace Temple, who led the service.

Speakers described Mrs. Parks, who died at 92, as both a warrior and a woman of peace who never stopped working toward a future of racial equality.

“The world knows of Rosa Parks because of a single, simple act of dignity and courage that struck a lethal blow to the foundations of legal bigotry,” said former President Bill Clinton, who had presented Mrs. Parks with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1996.

Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, not yet born when Mrs. Parks took her famous stand, was one of many who attributed their success to the doors she opened.

“Thank you for sacrificing for us,” he said. “Thank you for praying when we were too cool and too cute to pray for ourselves. … Thank you for allowing us to step on your mighty shoulders.”

Singers included Aretha Franklin and mezzo-soprano Brenda Jackson, who sang a soaring version of the Lord’s Prayer.

Members of Congress and national civil rights leaders filled the pews. Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa spoke, as did former presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry, Ford Motor Co. Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Bill Ford and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, New York Democrat.

Mrs. Parks was a 42-year-old tailor’s assistant at a Montgomery department store in December 1955 when she was arrested for refusing to give up her seat to a white man on a city bus. Her act of defiance triggered a 381-day boycott of the bus system, led by Martin Luther King.

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