John Lewis' Family Honors Civil Rights Icon in Alabama, Petition to Rename Bridge After Him Reaches Over 500K Signatures

Memorial services and tributes to the late civil rights activist and Congressman John Lewis began in his home state of Alabama on Saturday, while a Change.Org petition to rename the Edmund Pettus Bridge in honor of Lewis has reached over half a million signatures.

Numerous people spoke at a celebration of Lewis' life at the Trojan Arena at Troy University that morning, including his siblings Ethel Mae Tyner, Rosa Mae Tyner and Henry, Samuel and Freddie Lewis, to celebrate the congressman's life, according to CBS News.

Lewis died on July 17 at the age of 80.

Rosa Mae Tyner spoke about some of the ideas that Lewis lived by and have been echoed many times in the days since his death. "He often told us, 'If you see something wrong, do something.' His actions showed us just that. At a time when going to jail was perceived as trouble, he reminded us that it was good trouble, necessary trouble. See something. Say something. Do something," she said.

Lewis' 7-year-old great-nephew Jackson Lewis Brewster also spoke at the service, saying: "It's up to us to keep his legacy alive."

John Lewis
Former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg (3r top), Reverend Al Sharpton, and Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) (R) listen to US Representative John Lewis (D-AL) speak as they march march during the Annual Bloody Sunday March across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama on March 1, 2020. Getty/JOSHUA LOTT/AFP

A petition to rename the Edmund Pettus bridge to honor Lewis has been started by the John Lewis Bridge Project and has since passed 500,000 signatures on and over 200,000 on the John Lewis Bridge Project website.

John Lewis Bridge Project founder Michael Starr Hopkins told Newsweek about plans for the petition to get the name changed.

"It's less about a benchmark on signatures and more about our plan to lobby the legislature and work in tandem with the community in Selma to get the bridge renamed," Hopkins said. "The path that looks like our strongest path forward is to change the name through the legislature which would require them to pass a law doing so. It would then have to go to the governor's office, and the governor would have to sign off."

Hopkins also said that the John Lewis Bridge Project has more plans than simply renaming the bridge after Lewis. The project plans on making similar efforts across the country and working to extend legislature that Lewis worked hard for.

"We plan on addressing racist statues all over the country while also working on this project," he said. "We've begun the process of identifying statues, places and issues that need to be addressed, but our main focus now is removing Edmund Pettus' name from the bridge."

Hopkins added: "When we talk about removing Edmund Pettus' name and replacing it with John Lewis, this is more than just a symbolic gesture, because we are also starting conversations about making sure the Voting Rights Act is extended, and that's something that John Lewis marched across that bridge originally for."

Hopkins said that Lewis will certainly be missed. "In this moment, John Lewis' life—he'll be sorely missed. Our country is in a pivotal moment, and I think his leadership has been something that has always been a guiding light," he said. "He'll absolutely be missed."

Meanwhile, services will continue Saturday evening with a salute to the civil rights leader at the Brown Chapel A.M.E. in Selma, home of the Edmund Pettus Bridge that Lewis marched for voting rights on the historic Bloody Sunday, according to local CBS affiliate WIAT. A private service will take place from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. CT, and Lewis will lie in repose from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m.

On Sunday, Lewis will once again cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge at 10 a.m. There will then be a receiving ceremony outside the state capitol at 2 p.m. and he will lie in the capitol from 3-7 p.m.