Friends, family say goodbye to Aretha Franklin in marathon funeral

Free Press staff, wire reports | 9/6/2018, 6 a.m.
The “Queen of Soul” Aretha Franklin was remembered and celebrated in a star-studded marathon funeral service last Friday that drew ...
Together in the pulpit at Greater Grace Temple during the service are, from left, Minister Louis Farrakhan of the Nation of Islam; the Rev. Al Sharpton of the National Action Network; the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson Sr. of the National PUSH Rainbow Coalition; and former President Bill Clinton. Mourners at the packed Greater Grace Temple in Detroit rise near the end of the eight-hour service for Ms. Franklin. Paul Sancya Associated Press

“It would never be my intention to touch any woman’s breast … I don’t know, I guess I put my arm around her,” he told the Associated Press. “Maybe I crossed the border. Maybe I was too friendly or familiar. But, again, I apologize.”

He said he hugged all the performers during the service.

“I personally and sincerely apologize to Ariana and to her fans and to the whole Hispanic community,” Bishop Ellis said. “When you’re doing a program for nine hours you try to keep it lively, you try to insert some jokes here and there.”

Meanwhile, Ms. Franklin’s family on Monday called the eulogy delivered by the Rev. Jasper Williams Jr. offensive and distasteful.

His fiery, old school eulogy described children being in a home without a father as “abortion after birth” and said black lives do not matter unless black people stop killing each other.

“He spoke for 50 minutes and at no time did he properly eulogize her,” said Vaughn Franklin, the late singer’s nephew, who said he was delivering a statement for the family.

Many thought Rev. Williams, who is pastor of Salem Bible Church in Atlanta, took a shot at Ms. Franklin, who was a single mother of four boys.

The family selected Rev. Williams because he has spoken at other family memorials in the past, most prominently at the funeral for Ms. Franklin’s father 34 years ago.

The pastor said the last time he spoke with Aretha Franklin was a few months ago. His eulogy “caught the entire family off guard,” Vaughn Franklin said. The family had not discussed what Rev. Williams would say in advance, he said.

“It has been very, very distasteful,” he said.

Rev. Williams was blasted on social media for misogyny, bigotry and the perpetuation of false science on race. He blamed integration and the Civil Rights Movement for ripping the heart out of black micro-economies that once relied on black-owned small businesses such as grocery stores, hotels and banks.

Rev. Williams heard resistance at the funeral itself. Singer Stevie Wonder yelled out, “Black lives matter” after the pastor said, “No, black lives do not matter” during his eulogy.

The pastor has not backed down from anything he said, noting that he respects the family’s opinion. “I understand it,” he said. “I regret it. But I’m sorry they feel that way.”