John Lewis, Civil Rights Icon, Dies At 80

The Democrat participated within the Selma to Montgomery March of 1965 and spent his profession working to advance civil rights.

Posted on July 17, 2020, at 11:53 p.m. ET

Jessica Kourkounis / Getty Photos

Rep. John Lewis talking on the 2016 Democratic Nationwide Conference.

Georgia Rep. John Lewis, a revered civil rights icon and longstanding Democratic member of the Home, died Friday. He was 80.

His loss of life was confirmed by Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who known as him one of many best heroes of American historical past.

“John Lewis was a titan of the civil rights motion whose goodness, religion and bravado remodeled our nation,” she mentioned.

Lewis had represented the Atlanta, Georgia, space since he was elected to Congress in 1986. He was one of many highest-profile members of the Home and the longest-serving member of the Congressional Black Caucus.

In an announcement Friday night time, the Congressional Black Caucus mourned the lack of Lewis: “The world has misplaced a legend; the civil rights motion has misplaced an icon, the Metropolis of Atlanta has misplaced one in every of its most fearless leaders.”

Lewis had introduced on Dec. 29 that he had been recognized with Stage four pancreatic most cancers.

“It’s a problem and a combat. However I’ve had challenges earlier than and been combating all my life,” Lewis informed the Atlanta Journal-Structure on New 12 months’s Eve. “I’m prepared for the combat. I’ll undergo the therapy and face the day every day like it’s a new day. I’ll proceed to be hopeful and optimistic.”

Tom Williams / AP

Lewis is seen close to the statue of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. within the Capitol Rotunda earlier than a memorial service for the late Rep. Elijah Cummings in 2019.

Lewis was a nationwide determine effectively earlier than he served in Congress. Within the 1960s, he was one in every of “The Large Six” leaders of the civil rights motion, together with Martin Luther King, Jr. and others. On the time, Lewis was in his 20s and was serving because the chair of the Pupil Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.

In that function, Lewis was one of many leaders of the roughly 600 protesters who participated within the 1965 Selma to Montgomery March for full voting rights for black Individuals. Protesters solely made it to the Edmund Pettus Bridge heading east out of Selma on March 7 earlier than they encountered legislation enforcement who pressured them to cease. State troopers beat protesters utilizing golf equipment and tear gasoline. Lewis was among the many injured on what got here to be generally known as “Bloody Sunday,” and sustained a fractured cranium amongst different accidents.

Unknown / AP

State troopers swing billy golf equipment to interrupt up a civil rights voting march in Selma, Ala., March 7, 1965. John Lewis, chairman of the Pupil Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (within the foreground) is being crushed by a state trooper.

Later that month the protesters had been granted the appropriate to proceed the 54-mile march to Alabama’s capital. The violence throughout that march helped construct assist for legislative motion, and the Voting Rights Act was signed by President Lyndon Johnson later that yr.

Lewis was additionally an organizer and speaker on the 1963 March on Washington, the place Martin Luther King Jr. gave his well-known “I Have A Dream” speech. Lewis’s official biography notes that he was arrested greater than 40 occasions as he labored within the civil rights motion. He participated in numerous nonviolent demonstrations, protests, and sit-ins.

Rick Diamond / Getty Photos

Rep. John Lewis views for the primary time photographs and his arrest report for main a nonviolent sit-in at Nashville’s segregated lunch counters on March 5, 1963.

Lewis returned to Selma in March, 2018, for the annual Bridge Crossing Jubilee, the place he gave a speech about voting rights and the work left for the motion to do, earlier than he joined others in strolling throughout the Edmund Pettus Bridge, the place he was injured 53 years prior.

Lately, Lewis authored a trilogy of graphic novels about his expertise at Selma. The sequence, entitled March, recounts his private story in addition to the story of the civil rights motion extra broadly.

Former president Barack Obama awarded Lewis with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the very best award given to civilians, in 2011 for his contributions within the civil rights period.

“Generations from now, when dad and mom train their kids what is supposed by braveness, the story of John Lewis will come to thoughts — an American who knew that change couldn’t anticipate another particular person or another time; whose life is a lesson within the fierce urgency of now,” Obama mentioned in the course of the ceremony.

Alex Wong / Getty Photos

Rep. John Lewis is introduced with the 2010 Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama.

Lewis’s involvement within the civil rights motion was intricately tied to his method to being a lawmaker. In Congress, he usually mentioned his former experiences and spoke of “good hassle.”

Simply 10 days in the past, he tweeted concerning the anniversary of his arrest in the course of the Freedom Rides.

59 years in the past as we speak I used to be launched from Parchman Farm Penitentiary after being arrested in Jackson, MS for utilizing a so-called “white” restroom in the course of the Freedom Rides of 1961.

Lewis was one of many leaders of the Democrats’ sit-in on the Home ground in the summertime of 2016, an unsuccessful try to get Republicans to take up gun management laws following the Orlando Pulse nightclub capturing. However the sit-in did draw nationwide consideration, and ultimately prompted Republicans to close off cameras whereas Democrats held the ground for a day, forcing the Democrats to livestream the hours they spent on the ground themselves.

I am on the Home ground with @repjohnlewis & Dems staging a sit-in to demand motion on commonsense gun laws

In July 2018, Lewis was hospitalized for a weekend after reportedly turning into in poor health on a flight however launched with a “clear invoice of well being” a day later.

Shortly earlier than he was inaugurated in 2017, President Donald Trump tweeted about Lewis, who had mentioned he didn’t view Trump as a “authentic” president and protested Trump’s inauguration by not attending.

Congressman John Lewis ought to spend extra time on fixing and serving to his district, which is in horrible form and falling aside (to not……

point out crime infested) relatively than falsely complaining concerning the election outcomes. All speak, speak, speak – no motion or outcomes. Unhappy!

The congressman served on the highly effective Home Methods and Means Committee. In response to his workplace, he held greater than 50 honorary levels from schools and universities.

In April 2018, Lewis was requested to ship the Weekly Democratic Deal with to mark the 50th anniversary of King’s assassination. He used the chance to warn “towards the hazard of constructing partitions.”

“If Dr. King had been with us as we speak,” mentioned Lewis, “he would proceed to push our nation to respect the dignity and the price of each human being — irrespective of the place they’re born, irrespective of their race, age, faith, or gender id.”

In March this yr, he marched throughout the Edmund Pettus Bridge one ultimate time to mark 55 years since Bloody Sunday.

“On this bridge a few of us gave somewhat blood to assist redeem the soul of America,” he mentioned. “Our nation is a greater nation. We’re [a] higher folks, however we’ve nonetheless a distance to journey to go earlier than we get there.”

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