MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Members of U.S. Congress stopped in Memphis today as part of a multi-day Civil Rights pilgrimage to recognize the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination.
The group included Civil Rights icon Congressman John Lewis (D-Georgia) who nearly died fighting for equality in the 1960s.
The pilgrimage--which is an annual event that added Memphis as a starting point this year--will include stops in Birmingham, Montgomery, and Selma.
"Along the way, Dr. King was there with us every step of the way, and when he died, I think something died in all of us," Lewis said.
Lewis spoke Friday at the Lorraine Motel to pay homage to the place where Dr. King was killed in Memphis in 1968.
"Each time I come here, I feel like I'm in the presence of the holy spirit," Lewis said.
A delegation of roughly a dozen lawmakers were at the National Civil Rights Museum (NCRM) to place a wreath at the historical site.
Security was very high for the Congressional visit--with law enforcement watching over the NCRM on the ground and in the air.
"So many Congress people are here, and I hope they're inspired by their visit to Memphis as well as their visits to Alabama," Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tennessee) said.
Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tennessee) presented leaders of the NCRM with a proclamation declaring the Lorraine Motel the first site outside of Washington D.C. on the new U.S. Civil Rights trail.
"We have a long way to go, but as Ben Hooks used to say, our country is a work in progress and the progress we've made owes so much to John Lewis, the sanitation workers, and the heroes of Memphis," Alexander said.
Lewis said Dr. King inspired him to stand up, speak up, and never give up.
"He inspired me to get involved in the civil rights movement. He taught me how to live," Lewis said.
The Faith and Politics Institute organized the pilgrimage. They expect about 30 members of Congress to participate in all--joining the group later as they travel to Alabama.