An honor reserved only for presidents, senators, congressmen, generals, and unknown soldiers will now be given to Rosa Parks-a pioneer of the Civil Rights Movement.
The body of Rosa Parks will lay in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda for public viewing on Sunday from 6:30 p.m. to midnight and from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. on Monday.
The decision came yesterday after the House passed a resolution that was first approved by the Senate. U.S. Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) presented the resolution that stated "in recognition of the historic contribution of Rosa Parks, her remains be permitted to lie in the rotunda of the Capitol." Rosa Parks worked in Conyers office from 1965 to 1988 after she moved to Detroit from Montgomery, Ala.
In 1955 she refused to give up her seat to a white man on a segregated bus in Montgomery and she was arrested. This event put the Civil Rights Movement into full gear and put a then unknown Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King into the forefront. The movement resulted in legislation that made segregation unconstitutional in most public places.
Rosa Parks’ coffin will be flown from Montgomery to Washington on Sunday in a South American Airlines plane that will be conducted by one of the first African-American chief pilots for a commercial airline. After the public viewing, there will be service including a wreath laying and a performance from a choir.
"I can’t imagine a higher honor than this,” said Richard Baker, a chief Senate historian. He has studied events that took place in the U.S. Capitol for three decades.
"It’s been a long road from that bus seat to the Capitol Rotunda in Washington. This is a great memorial to the courage of one person," said Baker.
After the viewing there will be a 1 p.m. memorial service in DC at Metropolitan AME church.
Such a tribute takes an act of Congress and it has only happened 30 times. The first person to be honored was Henry Clay, in 1852. The last person was Reagan, in June of last year. Others were nine presidents, eight members of Congress, an admiral, two generals, two government officials, two Capitol police officers slain at their posts, unknown soldiers and Pierre Charles L’Enfant, the architect who designed Washington, D.C.
"There has to be a standard for a civilian to be accorded such a high honor," said Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) "Rosa Parks has met that standard of extraordinary service to her country. She didn’t have a weapon on her. She didn’t have an organization behind her. All she had was her conviction."
Information for this story was provided by washingtonpost.com.