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John Lewis mourned as ‘founding father’ of better America

ATLANTA (AP) — Hailed as a “founding father” of a fairer, better United States, John Lewis was eulogized Thursday by three former presidents and others who urged Americans to continue the work of the civil rights icon in fighting injustice during a moment of racial reckoning.

The longtime member of Congress even issued his own call to action — in an essay written in his final days that he asked be published in The New York Times on the day of his funeral. In it, he challenged the next generation to lay “down the heavy burdens of hate at last.”

After nearly a week of observances that took Lewis’ body from his birthplace in Alabama to the nation’s capital to his final resting place in Atlanta, mourners in face masks to guard against the coronavirus spread out across pews Thursday at the city’s landmark Ebenezer Baptist Church, once pastored by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

Former President Barack Obama called Lewis “a man of pure joy and unbreakable perseverance” during a fiery eulogy that was both deeply personal and political. The nation’s first Black president connected Lewis’ legacy to the ongoing fight against those who are “doing their darnedest to discourage people from voting.” His words came as the country has been roiled by weeks of protests demanding a reckoning with institutionalized racism — and hours after President Donald Trump suggested delaying the November election, something he doesn’t have the authority to do.

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