Sun, Oct 30, 2005 - Page 7 News List

Rosa Parks to lie in honor in US Capitol

THE GUARDIAN , LONDON

The late civil rights activist Rosa Parks will be the first woman to lie in honor in the US Capitol Rotunda -- a tribute formerly reserved for presidents, soldiers and prominent politicians.

Parks, who died on Monday, aged 92, will be only the second black American to receive this distinction, allowing visitors to the capital to file past her casket today as they did for former US president Ronald Reagan's last year.

She became one of the most revered figures of the civil rights era after refusing to give up her seat to a white man on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama, in December 1955. Her subsequent arrest prompted a boycott of local buses that lasted for more than a year, led by Martin Luther King, who was then unknown.

The following 10 years would see a huge, mostly non-violent, struggle for black Americans' right to vote and an end to segregation.

Democrat congressman John Conyers, for whom Parks worked in Detroit for 20 years, wrote the resolution.

"We think having her body lie in honor in the Rotunda is probably the most expressive way that we can let everyone know the legacy of Rosa Parks is embraced by the federal legislature," he said.

"I must say that the bipartisan support has been excellent," he added.

The US senate voted on Thursday to allow the honor and the House of Representatives endorsed it yesterday. Eva Malecki, a spokeswoman for the Architect of the Capitol, said the office was already working on seating and placement of the casket.

"The movement that Rosa Parks helped launch changed not only our country but the entire world, as her actions gave hope to every individual fighting for civil and human rights. We now can honor her in a way deserving of her contributions and legacy," said senate minority leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat.

Parks has been the subject of numerous vigils over the past week, including a service in Martin Luther King's old church on Friday, and her body will be the focus of ceremonies in three cities.

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