Politics

Obama to eulogize late Rep. John Lewis at Atlanta funeral

Former President Barack Obama will eulogize the late Rep. John Lewis at his funeral in Atlanta on Thursday, a source familiar with the planning told NBC News on Wednesday.

Lewis, who was known as the conscience of the Congress and a leader in the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s, died at age 80 earlier this month of complications from pancreatic cancer.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution first reported the news.

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“He loved this country so much that he risked his life and his blood so that it might live up to its promise. And through the decades, he not only gave all of himself to the cause of freedom and justice, but inspired generations that followed to try to live up to his example,” Obama said in a statement after Lewis’ death.

Lewis famously broke ranks with Hillary Clinton, then a Senator from New York, and former President Bill Clinton, with whom he had a close friendship, during the 2008 Democratic presidential primary to support her rival, Obama, who would then become the party’s nominee and the nation’s first Black president.

Congressman John Lewis, D-Ga, sits in his office in the Canon House office building on March 17, 2009.Jeff Hutchens / Getty Images file

Obama awarded Lewis the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011.

Former President George W. Bush and former First Lady Laura Bush will be in attendance, while the the Atlanta Journal-Constitution said Clinton is also expected to be there.

However, Deanna Congelio, a spokeswoman for former President Jimmy Carter, 95, and first lady Rosalyn Carter, 92, told NBC News the Carters will not attend. Carter, who is the oldest living president and a cancer survivor, was previously a Georgia state senator and served as governor of the state from 1971 to 1975.

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

Lewis’ services will be held at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta on Thursday and will not be open to the public. He will then be buried next to his wife, Lillian, at South-View cemetery.

Lewis had laid in state at the U.S. Capitol Rotunda earlier this week, where a bipartisan group of lawmakers and members of the public paid their respects. He also had a ceremony in Selma, Alabama, at the sight of a voting rights march known as Bloody Sunday.

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