"Mother Parks, take your rest," preacher says. "You have certainly earned it."
DETROIT – A soaring rendition of “The Lord’s Prayer” moved thousands of mourners at the funeral of civil rights pioneer Rosa Parks on today, with a preacher bidding: “Mother Parks, take your rest.”
Former President Clinton, his wife, Sen. Hillary Clinton, and hundreds of other mourners paid their respects at Parks’ open casket before the start of the funeral service that included the prayer in song by soprano Brenda Jackson.
Those in the audience held hands and sang “We Shall Overcome” as family members filed past the casket before it was closed just before noon.
Bishop Charles Ellis III of Greater Grace Temple led the service for 4,000 people packed in to say goodbye to the diminutive figure who sparked a civil rights revolution by refusing 50 years ago to give up her seat on a bus in Montgomery, Ala.
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“Mother Parks, take your rest. You have certainly earned it,” Ellis said.
Mourners waited in long lines in the chilly morning to honor Parks. Hours before the funeral began, the line to get one of the 2,000 available public seats at the church extended more than two blocks west in Parks’ adopted hometown.
Claudette Bond, 62, had been waiting since 6 p.m. Tuesday in a lawn chair. She was first in line and didn’t budge, even as temperatures dipped below 40 degrees.
“This will never happen again. There will never be another Rosa Parks,” said Moses Fisher, a Nashville, Tenn., resident waiting for the chance to get a seat.
As a white hearse carried Parks’ body from the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, where viewing lasted until the pre-dawn hours, dozens of people holding pictures of Parks crowded around it. As it began moving, they shouted, “We love you!”
The Rev. Jesse Jackson, who has called Parks “the mother of a new America,” was to be one of several speakers at the funeral. Aretha Franklin was to sing, and Philip R. Cousin, a senior bishop of the AME Church, had prepared a eulogy.
Parks was 92 when she died Oct. 24 in Detroit. Nearly 50 years earlier, she was a 42-year-old tailor’s assistant at a department store in Montgomery, Ala., when she was arrested and fined $10 plus $4 in court costs for refusing to give up her seat to a white man on a Montgomery city bus.
Her action on Dec. 1, 1955, triggered a 381-day boycott of the bus system led by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in December 1956 that segregated seats on city buses were unconstitutional, giving momentum to the battle against laws that separated the races in public accommodations and businesses throughout the South.
But Parks and her husband, Raymond, were exposed to harassment and death threats in Montgomery, where they also lost their jobs. They moved to Detroit with Rosa Parks’ mother, Leona McCauley, in 1957.
Parks was initially going to be buried a family plot in Detroit’s Woodlawn Cemetery, next to her husband and mother. But Swanson Funeral Home officials confirmed Tuesday that Parks would be entombed in a mausoleum at the cemetery and the bodies of her husband and mother also would be moved there.
Associated Press writers Tom Krisher, David N. Goodman and Bree Fowler contributed to this report.