Funeral home that prepared Dr. King for burial celebrates 100 years

Published: Jul. 25, 2014 at 6:23 PM CDT|Updated: Jul. 25, 2014 at 9:44 PM CDT
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Lewis felt incredibly honored to be entrusted with Dr. King's body. When word spread, hundreds...
Lewis felt incredibly honored to be entrusted with Dr. King's body. When word spread, hundreds of people showed up at Lewis Funeral home for what became the first viewing and memorial service for the civil rights legend. (Source: WMC Action News 5)
(Photo Source: WMC Action News 5)
(Photo Source: WMC Action News 5)

(WMC) – The funeral home where Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s body was prepared after his assassination is celebrating 100 years.

R.S. Lewis and Sons Funeral Home, located on Vance Avenue, does much more than just help families during their time of grief.

Looking back over 100 years of service in Memphis, what sticks out in the mind of Andre Jones, director of operations, is the day Dr. King was assassinated on the balcony of Lorraine Motel.

"The first call came to Robert Lewis Jr.," Jones said. "When he was assassinated, and they asked him to prepare him to go back to Atlanta so that the family could properly have a home going service for Dr. King."

Jones says the founder of the funeral home, Lewis, Jr. worked about 13 hours to get Dr. King's body properly prepared.

"They actually had about 4,000 people plus to come through here to visit to pay their respects to Dr. King," Jones said.

Lewis then traveled along with the body to Atlanta and didn't charge the family a dime.

"Did everything for free," he added. "No charge at all."

Jones says that's the kind of man Lewis Jr. was.

Forty-six years later, R.S. Lewis and Sons Funeral Home is celebrating their legacy as the oldest operating funeral home in Memphis.

"Our service speaks for itself," Jones said. "You don't stay in business 100 years when you give poor service."

In addition to the services it provides, the funeral home gives out yearly scholarships.

"Mr. Lewis used to do this when the kids would get their report card. They would come here, he would give them $5 or $10 to help encourage them to keep going to school," explained Jones.

The funeral home started the three day-celebration by giving out backpacks filled with school supplies.

But before the weekend is over, a historical monument will be unveiled and a street will be named in honor of the founder, R.S. Lewis Jr.

Copyright 2014 WMC Action News 5. All rights reserved.