WASHINGTON — A six-day program to honor U.S. congressman and prominent civil rights activist John Lewis began on Saturday with a morning service in his hometown of Troy, Alabama.

Family, friends and local dignitaries said goodbye to the civil rights activist and longtime Georgia congressman, who died on July 17 aged 80.

Lewis, born the son of sharecroppers in 1940 in Alabama, was considered one of the most prominent civil rights activists in the U.S. As a university student, he had taken part in sit-ins and freedom rides to protest against segregation, despite facing police violence.

He continued to be a proponent of Martin Luther King Jr's practice of nonviolent protest throughout his time in Congress and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor, in 2011.

Lewis' body was also to be taken to Selma, Alabama, where he was among civil rights demonstrators beaten by state troopers in 1965, and to lie in state at the Alabama Capitol in Montgomery.

On Monday and Tuesday, Lewis will lie in state at the top of the East Front Steps of the US Capitol in Washington for public viewing, with social distancing measures in place due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Donald Trump's spokeswoman Kayleigh McEnany on Saturday would not confirm if the U.S. president would go to the Capitol to pay his respects.

Lewis had often criticized Trump, and boycotted his inauguration in 2017. Trump responded by urging Lewis to take better care of his constituency in a tweet.

A state ceremony and funeral services will also be held in Georgia on Wednesday and Thursday.


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