Those inspired by Rosa Parks honor her memory in capital
Tens of thousands pass by her casket in the Rotunda
WASHINGTON -- Linking hands and singing ''We Shall Overcome," old friends and Washington's establishment remembered Rosa Parks yesterday as a quiet, gentle woman whose courage in the face of segregation helped inspire generations.
An overflow church crowd paid tribute to the woman whose refusal to give up her seat to a white man on a Montgomery, Ala., city bus 50 years ago helped galvanize the modern civil rights movement. The two-day farewell and ''homegoing" in Washington also attracted tens of thousands who walked by Parks's mahogany coffin in the Capitol Rotunda.
In a three-hour memorial service at historic Metropolitan AME Church, Parks was celebrated by political, religious, and civil rights leaders and other luminaries who spoke of the example she set with a simple act of defiance.
''I would not be standing here today, nor standing where I stand every day, had she not chosen to sit down," said talk show host Oprah Winfrey. ''I know that."
Winfrey, who was born in Mississippi during segregation, said Parks's stand ''changed the trajectory of my life and the lives of so many other people in the world."
Bishop Adam Jefferson Richardson of the African Methodist Episcopal Church called Parks a ''woman of quiet strength" who was ''noble without pretense, regal in her simplicity, courageous without being bombastic."
Eleanor Holmes Norton, the District of Columbia's congressional representative, said Parks's refusal to give up her seat ''was the functional equivalent of a nonviolent shot heard 'round the world."
''She saw the inherent evil in segregation and she had the courage to fight it in its common place, a seat on a bus," said Senator Sam Brownback, a Kansas Republican.
At the end of the service, the audience joined hands and sang the civil rights anthem ''We Shall Overcome." Mourners reached into the aisle to touch her casket as it was wheeled out of the church.
Afterward, Parks's casket was flown to Detroit, where a viewing began last night at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History. Former president Bill Clinton and singer Aretha Franklin are scheduled to attend her funeral tomorrow.
Parks, who died last Monday at 92, was arrested on Dec. 1, 1955, for refusing to give up her bus seat to a white man on demand, as required by law at the time. The action inspired a boycott that vaulted the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. to prominence and sparked the movement that brought an end to formal segregation.
Friends recalled that Parks was an active NAACP member before her arrest and had grown weary of laws and rules that separated the races in buses, restaurants and public accommodations throughout the South.
Earlier, tens of thousands of people filed silently by Parks' casket in the Capitol Rotunda in hushed reverence from Sunday night through midmorning Monday. She was the first woman to lie in honor in the Rotunda, sharing the tribute given to Abraham Lincoln, John F. Kennedy, and other national leaders.
Capitol Police estimated the crowd at about 30,000 but some participants said it was far bigger.
Among those paying respects was Judge Samuel Alito and his family, the day President Bush nominated him to the Supreme Court.