Myrlie Evers-Williams, the widow of civil rights activist Medgar Evers, will deliver the invocation at President Barack Obama's inauguration later this month, organizers announced Tuesday.
Evers-Williams, also a civil rights activist in her own right, is reportedly the first woman and non-clergy member to deliver a president's inaugural invocation.
In contrast with the untraditional selection of Evers-Williams, the Presidential Inaugural Committee announced that the Rev. Louie Giglio, a conservative evangelical who is the pastor of Passion City Church in Atlanta, will deliver the benediction at the inauguration. Giglio is the founder of the Passion Conferences, a student-centered Christian movement that raises awareness about human trafficking.
The president's official swearing-in for his second term is Jan. 20, but the ceremonial events organized by the inaugural committee are Jan. 21.
In a statement released by the inaugural committee, Obama said that Evers-Williams and Giglio's "voices have inspired many people across this great nation within the faith community and beyond" and reflect ideals of "justice, equality, and opportunity.”
Evers-Williams, 79, is the former chairwoman of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the founder of the Medgar Evers Institute in Jackson, Miss. Evers-Williams is the widow of Evers, who was murdered by a white supremacist in 1963. He was the NAACP's first field secretary in Mississippi and worked to overturn segregation at the University of Mississippi, among other causes.
"I am humbled to have been asked to deliver the invocation for the 57th inauguration of the President of the United States—especially in light of this historical time in America when we will celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Movement,” Evers-Williams said in a statement.
Giglio, 54, began his Passion Conferences in the mid-1990s. The most recent conference at the Georgia Dome gathered 60,000 Christian youth to worship, pray and strategize ways to combat modern-day slavery.
“During these days it is essential for our nation to stand together as one ... May we all look up to our God, from whom we can receive mercy, grace and truth to strengthen our lives, our families and our nation. I am honored to be invited by the President to lead our nation as we look up to God, and as we look ahead to a future that honors and reflects the One who has given us every good and perfect gift," he said in a statement.
Four years ago, Obama ignited controversy when he chose the Rev. Rick Warren, the California megachurch pastor criticized for speaking out against homosexuality and same-sex marriage, to deliver the invocation. The selection of Evers-Williams and Giglio, known for championing less contested issues, so far has not brought similar controversy.
ZeBarney Thorne Phillips
At the inaugurations of Franklin D. Roosevelt on Jan. 20, 1937 and Jan. 20, 1941, the invocation was delivered by ZeBarney Thorne Phillips, an Episcopalian and the Chaplain of the United States Senate. Photo: Chaplain of the United States Senate ZeBarney Thorne Phillips delivering prayer to open the session, 1939.
Bishop Angus Dun
At the fourth inauguration of Franklin D. Roosevelt, on Jan. 20, 1945, the invocation was delivered by Bishop Angus Dun, an Episcopalian and then Bishop of Washington. Photo: A crowd gathers outside the south portico of the White House to attend Franklin D. Roosevelt's 4th Inaugural speech January 20, 1945 in Washington D.C. (Photo by National Archive/Newsmakers)
Rev. Edward Hughes Pruden
On January 20, 1949, Rev. Edward Hughes Pruden, a Baptist of the First Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., delivered the invocation for the inauguration of Harry S. Truman. Photo: The inaugural stand in from the the Capitol before the inauguration of Harry S. Truman.
Patrick A. O’Boyle
On Jan. 20, 1953 at the inaugural of Dwight D. Eisenhower, the invocation was delivered by Patrick A. O’Boyle, the Catholic Archbishop of Washington. Photo: Dwight D. Eisenhower takes the Oath of Office as the President of the United States during his Inauguration January 20, 1953 in Washington D.C. Also pictured is former president Harry S. Truman, left, and Richard M. Nixon, right. (Photo by National Archive/Newsmakers)
Rev. Edward L. R. Elson
On Jan. 21, 1957, at the second inaugural of Dwight D. Eisenhower, the invocation was delivered by Rev. Edward L. R. Elson, a Presbyterian and then the Chaplain of the United States Senate. Photo: Reverend Edward L. R. Elson, former Chaplain of the United States Senate. He is shown wearing military ribbons reflecting U.S. Army chaplain service.
His Eminence Cardinal Richard Cushing
At the Jan. 20, 1961 inaugural of John F. Kennedy, the invocation was given by His Eminence Cardinal Richard Cushing, a Catholic. Photo: John F. Kennedy gives his inauguration address after being sworn in.
Archbishop Robert E. Lucey
At the Jan. 20, 1965 inaugural of Lyndon B. Johnson, Archbishop Robert E. Lucey, a Catholic, delivered the invocation. Photo: Archibishop Robert E. Lucey Co Rentmeester//Time Life Pictures/Getty Images).
Rev. Charles Ewbank Tucker
On Jan. 20, 1969, at the inaugural of Richard Nixon, the invocation was given by Rev. Charles Ewbank Tucker, bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church. Photo: Richard Nixon being inaugurated.
Rev. E. V. Hill
At the Jan. 20, 1973 inaugural of Richard M. Nixon, the invocation was delivered by the Rev. E. V. Hill, pastor of the Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church in Los Angeles. Photo: Archbishop Iakovos greets Richard M. Nixon at his second inauguration. The Greek Orthodox leader gave a prayer at the ceremony.
Rev. William Cannon
Rev. William Cannon, a United Methodist, delivered the invocation at the Jan. 20, 1977 inaugural of Jimmy Carter. Photo: Jimmy Carter at his inauguration.
Rev. Donn Moomaw
At the Jan. 20, 1981 inaugural of Ronald Reagan, the invocation (and benediction) was delivered by Rev. Donn Moomaw, a Presbyterian and pastor of Bel Air Presbyterian Church in Los Angeles. Photo: Rev. Donn Moomaw gives the invocation at the 1981 inauguration of President Ronald Reagan. Also pictured are House Speaker Tip O'Neill, Vice President George H. W. Bush, President Reagan, Barbara Bush and Nancy Reagan.
Rev. Timothy S. Healy
On January 21, 1985, at the second inaugural of Ronald Reagan, the invocation was given by Rev. Timothy S. Healy, a Catholic and then-president of Georgetown University. Photo: Ronald Reagan's 1985 presidential inauguration.
On Jan. 20, 1989, at the inauguration of George H. W. Bush, the Rev. Billy Graham, a Southern Baptist leader, delivered the invocation. (Here is the <a href="http://www2.wheaton.edu/bgc/archives/inaugural03.htm">full text</a>.) Photo: George H. W. Bush, with his wife, Barbara, and the Rev. Billy Graham at his inauguration.
On Jan. 20, 1993 and Jan. 20, 1997, at both of Bill Clinton's inaugurations, the Rev. Billy Graham, a Southern Baptist leader, delivered the invocation. (Here is the <a href="http://www2.wheaton.edu/bgc/archives/inaugural04.htm">full text from 1993</a> and <a href="http://www2.wheaton.edu/bgc/archives/inaugural08.htm">1997</a>.) Photo: US President Bill Clinton bows his head as Reverend Billy Graham gives the invocation at the beginning of the inaugural ceremony 20 January on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. Clinton was sworn in for a second term as U.S. President. (LUKE FRAZZA/AFP/Getty Images)
Rev. Franklin Graham
At the Jan. 20, 2001 inaugural of George W. Bush, the invocation was given by Rev. Franklin Graham, a Southern Baptist. (Here is the <a href="http://www.angelfire.com/in/HisName/invocationbenediction.html">full text</a>.) Photo: George W. Bush delivers his inaugural address.
Rev. Luis León
At the Jan. 20, 2005 inauguration of George W. Bush, Rev. Luis León, an Episcopalian and rector of St. John's Episcopal Church, Lafayette Square (Washington, D.C.), delivered the invocation. (Here is the <a href="http://www.angelfire.com/in/HisName/inauguration2005.html#invocation">full text</a>.) Photo: With his left hand resting on a family Bible, President George W. Bush takes the oath of office.
Rev. Dr. Rick Warren
Rev. Dr. Rick Warren, a Baptist and pastor of the Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., gave the invocation at the Jan. 20, 2009 inauguration of Barack Obama. (Here is the <a href="http://www.boston.com/news/local/articles_of_faith/2009/01/rick_warrens_in.html">full text</a>.) Photo: Barack Obama bows his head during the invocation by Rev. Rick Warren at his inauguration of Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States of America on the West Front of the Capitol January 20, 2009 in Washington, DC. Obama becomes the first African-American to be elected to the office of President in the history of the United States. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)