October 29, 2005

Thousands mourn Rosa Parks

By Peggy Gargis

MONTGOMERY, Alabama (Reuters) - Thousands of mourners
streamed past the open coffin of civil rights icon Rosa Parks
on Saturday in the city where her refusal 50 years ago to give
up her bus seat to a white man helped lead to desegregation in

The casket of Parks, who died in Detroit on Monday at the
age of 92, was draped in lace and her body was dressed in the
uniform of a church deaconess as she lay at the altar of the
St. Paul AME Church in Montgomery. Her coffin was taken to the
church in a horse-drawn carriage.

"I admired Rosa Parks since I was a small child and this is
my last chance to thank her," said teenager Dyshay Scott, who
traveled to Montgomery with her grandparents from their home in
South Carolina.

Parks was a 42-year-old seamstress for a Montgomery
department store when she caught a bus in downtown Montgomery
on December 1, 1955.

Her refusal to give up her seat to a white man who boarded
the bus three stops after her led to her arrest. But it also
sparked a boycott of the Montgomery bus system by black
residents led by a then-unknown Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

The boycott lasted 381 days, and legal challenges led to a
U.S. Supreme Court decision that forced Montgomery to
desegregate its bus system and helped put an end to "Jim Crow"
laws separating blacks and whites at public facilities
throughout the South.

Mourners lined up around the block outside the church in
Montgomery on Saturday. Some wept as they passed the casket.

Parks' body was to be on display until midnight. A service
will be held on Sunday morning and her coffin will then be
flown to Washington where she will become the first woman to
lie in honor in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda, a tribute usually
reserved for presidents, soldiers and politicians.

Her funeral is scheduled to take place in Detroit on


Becky Hyatt, a white woman from Blountsville in north
Alabama, said that when she was about 10 years old in a small
town in Georgia, she was spanked for playing with a little
black girl.

"I just felt I had to be here, as a child of the '50s and
'60s. It's maybe my way of making amends," she said.

Joyce Huffman, of Montgomery, and several other mourners
said Parks' legacy was to turn them blind to skin color.

"I'm colorblind. You don't get any blessing from hating
people. If more people were colorblind there would be more
peace," she said.

Actress Cicely Tyson, who played Rosa Parks' mother in the
movie "The Rosa Parks Story," and who came to Montgomery from
California, said Rosa Parks had been in her life as long as she
could remember.

"We shouldn't be colorblind but should accept each other as
human beings. To be colorblind is to be discarding," she said.