Pool Report #4
Feb. 7, 2006
Coretta Scott King funeral
New Birth Missionary Baptist Church, Lithonia, Georgia to the White House
No news, more color.
From earlier in the program, as promised:
The Rev. Joseph Lowery, co-founder of Southern Christian Leadership Conference, took a swipe at President Bush during a short speech that rocked the raucous crowd in the packed mega-church.
On Mrs. King, he said: "She extended Martin's message against poverty, racism and war. She deplored the terror inflicted by our smart bombs on missions way afar. We know now that there were no weapons of mass destruction over there," Lowery said. At first, the mostly black crowd clapped politely, then louder, then rose to its feet for a long and loud ovation. "But Coretta knew, and we know," Lowery said, "That there are weapons of misdirection right down here," he said. "For war, billions more, but no more for the poor!" The crowd cheered again.
Afterward, Lowery moved down the row of presidents. Bush 43 shook his hand, and even pulled him in for a hug with a big smile and a twinkle in his eye.
A bit more on the church: Absolutely huge inside, much more like Cole Field House than a house of worship. Coretta Scott King lay in a flower-bedecked casket in the center of the huge hall, directly in front of the lectern on the stage. While the crowd was predominately black, there were lots of white faces visible throughout the lower sections and up into the rafters ringing the top.
A random observation: Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was seen swaying softly back and forth during one of the songs before the program began, belted out by the New Birth Total Praise Choir.
When Bush went to the lectern, he was greeted by polite applause -- not the later standing ovation that "the first black president," Bill Clinton, would receive. But throughout his eulogy -- in which he called Mrs. King "A beautiful soul" and "our sister Coretta" -- people in the crowd repeatedly chimed in with a well-timed "Mmm hmm, child" or "Amen" or "All right!" He did get a standing ovation at the end, which was a lot louder than his welcoming applause.
The Atlanta mayor, Shirley Franklin, delivered a stirring remembrance, calling Mrs. King the "newest member of the freedom choir." "She sang for those who had no earthly reason to sing at all." Sometimes she sang a capella, sometimes solo, Franklin said.
Dr. Dorothy I. Height, chairman of board National Council of Negro Women in D.C., said of Mrs. King: "She never let her life be dominated by fear." And this: "Let us not just think about history, let us make history and move forward."
Sen. Ted Kennedy spoke, as did Sen. John Conyers. Both received standing ovations. Carter spoke, then 41, then 42. Clinton drew a thunderous ovation when he came to the lectern with wife Hillary. Almost deafening. Early in his speech, when Clinton said something about being with the past and present presidents, someone in the crowd yelled out "and future president!" There was laughter and applause, which grew into another standing ovation, this one for Sen. Clinton.
Reaction in the crowd during Clinton's speech was much like that to Lowery's (if he's not black, he definitely plays one on TV). Lots of interjections: "Oh yeah!" and "You got that right!" and "Mm hmm, now!" Bigger standing ovation at the end.
The pool was packing up as Hillary spoke, and left just as she finished.
Other random reporting: Two young black men, both with dreadlocks, won a battle to get into the event. Bridgemon Bolger, 20, a student at Clayton State University, and Andre Vinson, who attends DeKalb Technical College, live just a few minutes from the church. But when they tried to get into the event, they were told by a DeKalb County police officer that it was closed to the public, they said. So they cut through the woods, past a mansion ("We coulda? got shot," Bolger said), climbed a fence, jumped a creek and -- met up with Secret Service, sitting in "a black vans with bl! ack windows." But they talked their way past and soon joined the throng walking down the road to the church.
Bolger: "Coretta Scott King carried on her husband's legacy. There wouldn't be a King Holiday without her. She carried on the fight for civil rights and for the poor." And: "Now she's home with him. But there's still a long way to go. There are still people with the baggage of prejudice. It's everywhere. Black folks are just as racist as white folks. And it's got to stop. Maybe our children's children, our grandchildren, will benefit from what Coretta Scott King did."
Arrival at AAFB at exactly 5. POTUS and FLOTUS down, then up in Marine One. The Clintons came down arm in arm, looking warm and happy.
The Washington Times