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More Than 30,000 Pay Respects to US Civil Rights Icon Rosa Parks

Tens of thousands of people have paid tribute to Rosa Parks, whose defiance of discriminatory laws in the southern United States 50 years ago paved the way for the end of segregation. Mrs. Parks, who died at age 92, was given a send off from the U.S. Capitol where she lay in honor as thousands filed past her casket.

With a choir singing a spiritual hymn on the steps of the East front of the U.S. Capitol, an honor guard slowly carried the casket bearing Rosa Parks body to a waiting hearse.

There could not have been a more significant demonstration of her importance in U.S. history, and to Americans of every color, than the tribute given her by Congress and the nation.

She was the first woman to lie in repose in the large, ornate rotunda under the dome of the U.S. Capitol, joining former presidents and military heroes and others given the honor dating back to 1852.

The last such use of the Capitol rotunda was for former President Ronald Reagan in 2004.

Mrs. Parks was only the second African-American given the honor - after Jacob Joseph Chestnut, one of two U.S. Capitol police officers killed in the line of duty in 1998.

From Sunday to Monday, thousands of Americans of all races stood in line to pay a final tribute. Those paying respects included African-American community and civil-rights leaders, members of Congress, and other dignitaries.

President Bush and his wife Laura were among them on Sunday, laying a wreath, as the chaplain of the U.S. Senate, Rear Admiral Barry Black, read a eulogy. "We are grateful that by sitting down, this mother of the modern civil rights movement enabled millions to stand up in a better world.

May her noble spirit reminds us of the power of faithful, small acts," he said.

In 1955, Mrs. Parks, then a 42-year-old seamstress in Montgomery, Alabama, refused to give up her seat on a city bus to a white man.

That defiance of segregationist laws sparked a 381-day bus boycott by African Americans, led by the late Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., an event that helped set off the civil-rights movement in the United States.

In November, 1956, the Supreme Court ruled segregation on transportation unconstitutional, setting the stage for other significant steps forward in the civil-rights movement.

In honoring Rosa Parks at the U.S. Capitol, the House and Senate said she was being recognized for her historic contributions as a great American.

President Bush ordered flags across the United States to be flown at half staff in her honor.

In the procession taking Mrs. Parks to a memorial service in a Washington, D.C. church, was an old white bus from Montgomery, Alabama, the vehicle on which she refused to give up her seat in 1955.

Rosa Parks will be buried Wednesday in Detroit, Michigan.