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.