A celebration of Rep. John Lewis' life includes calls to vote, continue the fight

At the funeral service for the civil rights icon, former President Obama delivered a eulogy that lauded the Georgia congressman's legacy and pushed for a continued call to action in his spirit.
6:43 | 07/31/20

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Transcript for A celebration of Rep. John Lewis' life includes calls to vote, continue the fight
And lead me home And someday when we do form a more perfect union, whether it's years from now or decades or even if it takes another two centuries, John Lewis will be a founding father of that fuller, fairer, better America. Reporter: From the church in Atlanta that is the beating heart of the civil rights movement bells rang today in honor of congressman John Lewis. 80 times for 80 years of his storied life. Welcome to ebenezer Baptist church. Spiritual home of martin Luther king Jr. Reporter: Three former presidents, members of congress, mayors, past and present, mourners braving the heat outside, all came together to remember and celebrate the man who stared down death and fought for life. John Lewis, first of the freedom riders, youngest speaker at the March on Washington, member of congress representing the people of this state and this district for 33 years, mentor to young people including me at the time, until his final day on this Earth, which isn't bad for a boy from Troy. Reporter: President George W. Bush was the last U.S. President to reauthorize the voting rights act. John and I had our disagreements, of course. But in the America John Lewis fought for and the America I believe in differences of opinion are inevitable elements and evidence of democracy in action. Reporter: President bill Clinton spoke about losing a friend. He took a savage beating on more than one day. And he lost that backpack on bloody Sunday. Nobody knows what happened to it. What it represented never disappeared from John Lewis's spirit. He's gone up yonder and left us with marching orders. I suggest, since he's close enough to god to keep his eye on the sparrow and us, we salute, suit up and March on. Reporter: Cortland cox knows all about marching. He was a fellow organizer with the student non-violent coordinating committee. Cox has known Lewis for more than 50 years. John Lewis was a person who really believed that you needed to put your body on the line to get in the way. I'm bent over writing -- Reporter: Cox was there on that Wednesday in Washington in 1963, helping the then 23-year-old craft what would become a historic speech. Let us not forget that we are involved in a serious social revolution. The Kennedy administration did not like the kind of criticism that John laid on the administration. The administration wanted the speech changed. We told them that we in fact were not going to change it. We were going to, you know, leave the speech as it was. Reporter: Just this past Sunday in his home state of Alabama Lewis's body crossed the Edmund Pettus bridge one last time. In 1965 on bloody Sunday he was nearly beaten to death by police in a March for voting rights. He crossed that bridge as a Edna Chamblin also marched in Alabama all those years ago. It was a pleasure to be a part of it, walking with him and martin Luther king back in the '60s. Reporter: Today in Atlanta she brought her grandson to his memorial. This day is for John Lewis. You know. And we want to celebrate this day as our hero goes to his final resting place. Reporter: Delivering the eulogy was president Barack I was proud that John Lewis was a friend of mine. I met him when I was in law the next time I saw him I'd been elected to the United States senate. And I told him, John, I'm here because of you. Reporter: The former president didn't mince words, saying that the activism that made Lewis a civil rights hero is entirely similar to the protests filling the streets today. Bull Connor may be gone. But today we witness with our own eyes police officers kneeling on the necks of black Americans. George Wallace may be gone, but we can witness our federal government sending agents to use tear gas and batons against peaceful demonstrators. John devoted his time on this Earth fighting the very attacks on democracy and what's best in America that we're seeing circulate right now. He's going to step out. Reporter: For cox, who watched the service from his home in Washington, D.C., the service didn't just celebrate the politician. It honored the man he knew. He was a very determined person. And I heard somebody at the memorial service saying that he could dance. That was not really -- that was not really true. But he would get out there and dance. John was a hell of a guy. Reporter: A tribute to his friend and a reminder of all the work that's left to be done. As John Lewis once said, "Our struggle is not the struggle of a day, a month, a week, or a year. It is the struggle of a lifetime." I think the value of John Lewis is that he's seen as an ordinary person who did extraordinary things. And almost at the end of his life realizing that he could no longer continue the struggle he went down to the black lives plaza to make a statement to the young people to say I have fought the good fight, I have done everything that's necessary, but I know it's not sufficient, I'm looking for you to carry on the struggle.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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