Atlanta funeral home receives international exposure saying goodbye to 2 civil rights legends

An Atlanta funeral home has gotten worldwide exposure as it buried two civil rights icons just days apart this month. The Willie Watkins Funeral Home said it was honored the handling the homegoing celebrations of life for Rev. C.T. Vivian and Congressman John Lewis.

Founder Willie Watkins said quality service is always his goal. He considered it a privilege to serve the Vivian and Lewis families.

"Understand that this is somebody's loved one, especially if you know them you say I am moving a brother of mine. A mentor of mine that I have been knowing for a long time, same way with Dr. Lowery," Watkins revealed.

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The Celebration of Life for Congressman John Lewis spanned three locations and six days, including the memorable last crossing of the Edmond Pettus Bridge in Selma for the life-long freedom fighter and public servant.

Darrell Watkins drove the horse-drawn carriage that day. He and his niece Farris Watkins had the idea to lay red rose petal down to symbolize the blood that Lewis and others shed when they were attacked on the Edmond Pettus Bridge in 1965.

"I had to pay my respects and stand and tip my hat for all the Congressman did for me and others," Darrell Watkins confessed.

Willie Watkin's daughter Farris grew up in the business and joined the operation full-time just last year. She said every funeral is a celebration of life.

"We don't do things for show. Everything is symbolic even the doves... we release them, and they go back to your creator,” the Spelman graduate said.

"So, we got Roy, Richard, David, Anthony, myself, and Darrell. It was Willie's brainchild, but we all were there," Watkin's brother Sylvania recalled.

Willie Watkins started the business back in 1982 with six brothers and his mother, Hattie Guinn Watkins.

"She was the ringleader, the mouthpiece, the backbone our everything our mother, Hattie Guinn Watkins," Sylvania commented.

"She made us stay focused and stay prayerful about what we were doing,” Willie Watkin said.

Watkins started the business with a $59,000 loan from Citizen's Trust Bank back in 1982.

Despite all the splendor of Lewis' funeral, Watkins said the largest funeral they serviced was Coretta Scott King, the widow of civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. back in 2006.

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