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Thousands Honor King at Funeral Ceremony

In a packed megachurch, four U.S. Presidents, lawmakers and friends honored Coretta Scott King on Tuesday, remembering her work for civil rights and her work to preserve the legacy of her husband, the
( [email protected] ) Feb 08, 2006 08:17 AM EST

In a packed megachurch, four U.S. Presidents, lawmakers and friends honored Coretta Scott King on Tuesday, remembering her work for civil rights and her work to preserve the legacy of her husband, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

Thousands gathered at New Birth Missionary Baptist Church, in Lithonia, Ga., just outside of Atlanta, including President George W. Bush and former presidents Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush and Jimmy Carter.

“We gather in God’s house, in God’s presence, to honor God’s servant, Coretta Scott King,” said President Bush. “Her journey was long, and only briefly with a hand to hold. But now she leans on everlasting arms. I've come today to offer the sympathy of our entire nation at the passing of a woman who worked to make our nation whole.”

"Coretta Scott King not only secured her husband's legacy, she built her own," he added.

King, who died last week at the age of 78 after battling through ovarian cancer and the effects of stroke, worked for nearly 40 years to carry on the memory of her husband, who fought for civil rights and racial reconciliation until he was assassinated in 1968.

Former President Carter, who also spoke at King’s funeral on Tuesday, commended the peaceful struggle that she and her husband led.

"They overcame one of the greatest challenges of life, which is to be able to wage a fierce struggle for freedom and justice and to do it peacefully," said Carter, according to The Associated Press.

However, the former president lamented that racial equality was still a problem, reminding the crowd that the “the struggle for equal rights is not over."

"We only have to recall the color of the faces of those in Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi – those who were most devastated by Katrina – to know that there are not yet equal opportunities for all Americans," he said.

The Rev. Bernice King, the youngest of the Kings' four children and a minister at New Birth Missionary, also delivered remarks in a mixture of a sermon and a eulogy.

Preaching against violence and materialism, she said that her mother's purpose in life was to spread her father's message of peace and unconditional love.

"Thank you, mother, for your incredible example of Christ-like love and obedience," she said.

Since Saturday, more than 160,000 mourners waited in long lines to pay their last respects under the Georgia Capitol dome, later at Ebenezer Baptist Church where the late Dr. King preached, and today at New Birth Church.

After the funeral, King’s body will be placed in a crypt near her husband’s body, at the Martin Luther King Center in Atlanta, which she helped build to promote his memory.

There were 39 scheduled speakers including former President Clinton and poet Maya Angelou.