Bill Clinton, Smokey Robinson to speak at Aretha Franklin funeral

Susan Whitall
Special to The Detroit News
President Bill Clinton along with First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton presented singer Aretha Franklin with the 1999 National Medal of Arts and Humanities Award Sept. 29, 1999.

Former President Bill Clinton will speak at Aretha Franklin’s funeral next Friday, Aug. 31, at the Greater Grace Temple, according to her publicist Gwendolyn Quinn.

Other political figures confirmed by Quinn who will speak at the Celebration of Life at Greater Grace Temple are former U.S. Attorney General  Eric Holder, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence of Southfield, Detroit City Council President Brenda Jones, and the Revs. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton.

Jackson ran for president in 1988 and 1992, winning the Michigan caucuses the first time, while Sharpton ran in 2004. 

Franklin’s neighbor from Detroit’s north end, Smokey Robinson, will share memories from his long friendship with her, as will her onetime record company boss Clive Davis, Bishop T.D. Jakes, pastor of The Potter's House in Dallas, and actress Cicely Tyson.

Longtime friends TV personality Judge Greg Mathis and Michael Eric Dyson, professor of sociology at Georgetown University, will also share their thoughts about the Queen of Soul, who died Aug. 16 at her Detroit home.

The Rev. Jasper Williams Jr., pastor of Salem Baptist Church in Atlanta, will deliver the eulogy. Bishop Charles H. Ellis, III, pastor of Greater Grace Temple, will serve as Officiant with the Rev. Robert Smith Jr., pastor of New Bethel Baptist Church in Detroit, as co-officiant.

Franklin sang at both of Clinton’s inaugural celebrations, and he and Hillary Clinton were in the audience for her last public performance in November at Elton John’s benefit supporting the fight against HIV/AIDS. In 1999, Clinton presented her with the National Medal of Arts and Humanities Award.

A retinue of other Democratic officials are expected to turn out for the visitation and funeral. Franklin also sang at the inaugurations of presidents Jimmy Carter and Barack Obama, and she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President George W. Bush in 2005.

U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Dearborn, will attend Franklin’s funeral and join her husband, former U.S. Sen. John Dingell, for Franklin’s visitation.

Statewide, officials such as former Michigan Gov. James Blanchard, who named Franklin the state’s “greatest natural resource” in 1986, will attend the funeral.

The homegoing service is set for 10 a.m. Friday at Greater Grace Temple in Detroit.  

Detroit News Staff Writer Beth LeBlanc contributed.