Thousands Pay Final Respects To Rosa Parks

Thousands of people waited in long lines in the chilly morning Wednesday to honor Rosa Parks at her funeral and pay final respects to the civil rights pioneer.

Hours before the funeral began, the line to get one of the 2,000 available public seats at Greater Grace Temple extended more than two blocks west of the church in Parks' adopted hometown. The funeral was to start at 11 a.m., but was delayed as the crowd continued gathering in the church.

Claudette Bond, 62, had been waiting since 6 p.m. Tuesday in a lawn chair. She was first in line and didn't budge, even as temperatures dipped below 40 degrees.

"This will never happen again. There will never be another Rosa Parks," said Moses Fisher, a Detroit native and Nashville, Tennessee resident, another waiting for the chance to get a seat.

As a white hearse carried Parks' body from the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, where viewing lasted until the pre-dawn hours, dozens of people holding pictures of Parks crowded around it. As it began moving, they shouted, "We love you."

Civil rights leaders, dignitaries and politicians are some of the 4,000 people expected to attend the funeral. Among them are former President Bill Clinton, his wife, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm, members of the Congressional Black Caucus, Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan and Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, the former wife of Nelson Mandela.

The Rev. Jesse Jackson, who has called Parks "the mother of a new America," was to be one of several speakers at the funeral. Aretha Franklin was preparing to sing, and Philip R. Cousin, a senior bishop of the AME Church, had prepared a eulogy.

Parks was 92 when she died October 24 in Detroit. Nearly 50 years earlier, she was a 42-year-old tailor's assistant at a department store in Montgomery, Alabama, when she was arrested and fined $10 plus $4 in court costs for refusing to give up her seat to a white man on a Montgomery city bus. Her action on December 1, 1955, triggered a 381-day boycott of the bus system led by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in December 1956 that segregated seats on city buses were unconstitutional, giving momentum to the battle against laws that separated the races in public accommodations and businesses throughout the South.

But Parks and her husband Raymond were exposed to harassment and death threats in Montgomery, where they also lost their jobs. They moved to Detroit with Rosa Parks' mother, Leona McCauley, in 1957.

Parks held a series of low-paying jobs before U.S. Rep. John Conyers hired her in 1965 to work in his Detroit office. She remained there until 1987.

Parks was initially going to be buried a family plot in Detroit's Woodlawn Cemetery, next to her husband and mother. But Swanson Funeral Home officials confirmed Tuesday that Parks would be entombed in a mausoleum at the cemetery and the bodies of her husband and mother also would be moved there.