Rev. Wintley Phipps sings 'Amazing Grace' in tribute to John Lewis at the Capitol

Rev. Wintley Phipps gave an emotional performance to honor the life of the civil rights icon.

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/ Source: TODAY
By Drew Weisholtz

Rev. Wintley Phipps delivered a moving performance of “Amazing Grace” when Rep. John Lewis was lying in state at the U.S. Capitol on Monday. Lewis also became the first Black lawmaker to lie in state.

The 80-year-old died July 17 and had announced in December that he was receiving treatment for stage 4 pancreatic cancer.

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Phipps, a Grammy-nominated gospel singer who founded the U.S. Dream Academy, a program aimed at helping kids achieve their goals, stood at a podium and sang while mourners in masks sat socially distanced. He hummed for about 90 seconds before launching into the classic song and received a round of applause from everyone in the room when he finished performing.

In February, Phipps spoke to TODAY's Carson Daly about how the message of "Amazing Grace" affected him personally, the song's use of African melodies and its connection to slavery.

"What it says to me is that I can be restored," Phipps said. "The melody of that song, if it lifted them from dark experiences, if so many of my ancestors, singing that song, could make it, there's no excuse."

Because of the coronavirus, about 100 people were on hand at the memorial service, The New York Times reported, a smaller turnout than what is typical for a lawmaker of Lewis’ profile lying in state.

"Under the dome of the U.S. Capitol, we have bid farewell to some of the greatest Americans in our history," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said during the service. "It is fitting that John Lewis join this pantheon of patriots resting upon the same catafalque as President Abraham Lincoln.

"John Lewis became a titan of the civil rights movement and then the conscience of the Congress. John was revered and beloved on both sides of the aisle and on both sides of the Capitol. We knew that he always worked with the side of the angels, and now we know he is with them."

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said, "Even though the world around him gave him every cause for bitterness, he stubbornly treated everyone with respect and love."

Lewis’ body will return to Georgia, the state he represented for many years, on Wednesday, and he will lie in state in the Georgia State Capitol before his private funeral in Atlanta on Thursday.