ATLANTA – Three former presidents were among the mourners who gathered Thursday at the church where the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. once preached to honor civil rights giant Rep. John Lewis for his funeral.

The funeral is now underway.

Former presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton are in attendance at the service. All in attendance wore masks as a precaution against spreading the coronavirus.

The service comes as the New York Times published a posthumous op-ed Thursday morning penned by Lewis, a congressman representing the Atlanta area since 1986, repeating his call for Americans to get in “good trouble, necessary trouble,” in order to “redeem the soul” of their country. 

The civil rights icon wrote the essay shortly before his death, requesting it be published on the day of his funeral, which will take place later today in Atlanta, Georgia.

The funeral at the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church caps six days of memorial services across five different cities. 

There will be an interment for Lewis at South View Cemetery following the funeral. 

Lewis passed away July 17 after a battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 80 years old. 

The late congressman lay in state at the Georgia State Capitol rotunda on Wednesday with special ceremonies hosted by lawmakers and his fraternity Phi Beta Sigma. 

Lewis served in the U.S. House of Representatives for Georgia’s 5th congressional district for 33 years. The district covers most of Atlanta and a few suburbs. 

Prior to being elected to Congress, Lewis was an Atlanta city councilman.

Lewis was loved and respected throughout the Atlanta community for his unwavering fight for civil rights. 

A look at the life of congressman and civil rights icon John Lewis in his own words.

USA TODAY

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He spent most of his life advocating for equality, particularly voting rights for Black people, including as a member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and a young organizer for the March on Washington in 1963. 

Mourners created a makeshift memorial of flowers, teddy bears, candles and posters expressing gratitude in front of the John Lewis mural in downtown Atlanta. The mural was dedicated in 2012. 

Attendees at Thursday’s funeral will be required to wear masks.

Ebenezer Baptist Church’s Horizon Sanctuary is located at the site of the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Park. Civil rights leader C.T. Vivian, who died the same day as Lewis, was carried through the site during a processional last week. 

A giant dies: Rep. John Lewis, who ‘risked his life and his blood’ for the civil rights movement, dies of cancer at 80

Because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Lewis’ family is encouraging supporters to hold virtual events in their homes and watch the livestream of the funeral.

The community is also being asked to tie blue or purple ribbons around their front doors to honor Lewis. 

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