Aretha Franklin Gets R-E-S-P-E-C-T From Lawmakers

Members of Congress recall personal connections, dedication to civil rights

Aretha Franklin sings during the inauguration ceremony for President Barack Obama on the West Front of the Capitol on Jan. 20, 2009. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

As the news of the death of Aretha Franklin circulated, members of Congress recalled their personal connections to the Queen of Soul, as well as her long advocacy of civil rights. 

“What made her talent so great was her capacity to live what she sang. Her music was deepened by her connection to the struggles and the triumphs of the African American experience growing up in her father’s church, the community of Detroit, and her awareness of the turmoil of the South. She had a lifelong, unwavering commitment to civil rights and was one of the strongest supporters of the movement,” Georgia Democratic Rep. John Lewis, a civil rights icon in his own right, said in a statement. 

Michigan Democrat Debbie Dingell recalled in a statement that she and her husband John, who previously represented her Dearborn and downriver Detroit district for 59 years, benefited not just from their friendship with the musical legend, but John got electoral help as well.

“John and I lost a friend. Aretha’s father was a true friend to John, helping him in his first election and fighting Civil Rights battles together in the 50s and 60s. Aretha was just a friend to me — there if I ever needed her. Aretha was complicated, loving and giving. Faith was important to her and the Church never left her. Her faith in Detroit and it’s people is what I will remember as much as her voice,” Dingell said. 

Watch Aretha Franklin Sing ‘My Country, ’Tis of Thee’ at the Capitol


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