Dignitaries draw extra security for Aretha's funeral

Shawn D. Lewis
The Detroit News
Aretha Franklin was interviewed after a taping for American Idol XIV at The Fillmore Detroit in 2015. She once expressed interest in being a judge on the popular show.

Security will be extra tight for the Aug. 31 funeral of Aretha Franklin, as the list of dignitaries expected to attend grows.

Among those confirmed is former President Bill Clinton. Former Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama also were invited, but as of Friday afternoon, they had not confirmed.

Bishop Charles H. Ellis III, pastor of Greater Grace Temple, where the funeral will be held, said members of the Secret Service visited the church Friday.

MoreBill Clinton, Smokey Robinson to speak at funeral

“Three members of the Secret Service were here today checking out all of the entrances, exits, doing a pre-check to familiarize themselves with the building,” he said. “There also will be security on the rooftops, and the sniffing dogs will be at the church very early on the day of the funeral.”

Although the funeral will be invitation-only, the public will be able to view it from a large screen outside Greater Grace Temple, according to Ellis.

He said the funeral could last as long as seven hours.

"There are a lot of songs on the program, including many that are back to back," he said. "When Rosa Parks ' funeral was held at the church, it lasted just under seven hours, and I expect this will run longer."

The Queen of Soul's funeral is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. Friday at Greater Grace. The church, which seats 4,000, is at 23500 W. Seven Mile.

Extra security also will be in place during viewing scheduled from 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, 315 W. Warren..

"I am not at liberty to discuss how much extra security, but it will be there," said museum spokeswoman Delisha Upshaw.

A third viewing will be held from noon-4 p.m. Aug. 30 at New Bethel Baptist Church, 8430 Linwood.

Other political figures expected to address the Celebration of Life include former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, Gov. Rick Snyder, Mayor Mike Duggan, U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence of Southfield, Detroit City Council President Brenda Jones, and the Revs. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton.

Smokey Robinson, one of Franklin’s childhood neighbors from Detroit’s north end, also is expected to offer remarks, along with Clive Davis, her onetime record company boss, Bishop T.D. Jakes, pastor of the Potter’s House in Dallas, Rev. Jim Holley, pastor of Detroit's Historic Little Rock Baptist Church, and actress Cicely Tyson.

The eulogy will be delivered by the Rev. Jasper Williams, Jr., pastor of Salem Baptist Church in Atlanta. Ellis will serve as co-officiant, along with the Rev. Robert Smith, Jr., pastor of New Bethel Baptist Church.

 Ellis wants those celebrating the life of the Queen of Soul to remember that she was a mother who leaves four sons to mourn her loss.

"I would hope in the midst of all the excitement of celebrating the life of Aretha Franklin, that people will remember she was a mother to four sons," he said. "Keep this in mind after this is over, because they have to live with that person's presence being gone forever."