Rousing gospel music filled Detroit's Greater Grace Temple Church as what was supposed to have been a three-hour service turned into a daylong event. More than 4,000 people packed the church to honor the African-American woman who in 1955 refused to give up her bus seat for a white man, as the law in Montgomery, Alabama, required at the time.
Former President Bill Clinton, who honored Mrs. Parks with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1996, recalled riding asegregatedbus to school in Arkansas when he was a child. "The world knows of Rosa Parks because of a single simple act of dignity and courage that struck a lethal blow to the foundations of legal bigotry."
Mr. Clinton said Mrs. Parks ignited the most significant social movement in American history with her refusal, which triggered a 381-day boycott of the Montgomery bus system led by the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr., who was not well-known at the time. "Let us never forget that in that simple act and a lifetime of race and dignity, she showed us every single day what it means to be free. She made us see and agree that everyone should be free."
Democratic Senator Barack Obama, of Illinois, the only African-American in the U.S. Senate, said Mrs. Parks made history, even though she never held public office and was not a wealthy woman. "It is this small, quiet woman, whose name will be remembered long after the names of senators and presidents have been forgotten. It's her name that will be recalled as having helped lay the foundation for a nation to live up to its creed," he said.
Mrs. Parks made history again after her death as she became the first woman and only the second African-American to lie in honor in the Capitol Rotunda in Washington. She was to be entombed in a mausoleum at the prestigious Woodlawn Cemetary, where some of Detroit's leading citizens have been laid to rest.