DETROIT – Thousands braved sporadic rain and long lines even before the sun rose Tuesday to say goodbye to civil rights matriarch Rosa Parks.

It was the beginning of the final leg of a three-city farewell that included memorials in her former hometown, Montgomery, Ala., and the Capitol Rotunda in Washington. It will end with her funeral Wednesday in the Motor City, where Aretha Franklin is expected to sing.

Former President Bill Clinton, who presented Parks the Presidential Medal of Honor in 1996, is expected to speak, and the Rev. Jesse Jackson will eulogize Parks, who died Oct. 24 at age 92.

“I had to be here because she had such an impact on my life,” said 72-year-old Alma Greer of suburban Detroit, recalling her own battles with segregation in Georgia. “She gave us the perfect example of how to express your discontent in a very dignified way. She demonstrated that one person can make a difference.”

Parks, a seamstress whose refusal to give up her seat to a white man on a bus in Montgomery in 1955 sparked the modern civil rights movement, moved to Detroit in 1957.

Among the 20,000 paying their respects were hundreds of children for what one principal called “a field trip of history.”

“Sometimes kids feel like history is just something that happened a long time ago,” said Sabin Duncan, who brought 65 elementary school students. “This is an opportunity to connect them to history.”


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