Sad news to report.
Rep. John R. Lewis, the civil rights icon whose fight for racial justice began in the Jim Crow south and ended in the halls of Congress, died Friday night.
The Georgia lawmaker had been suffering from Stage IV pancreatic cancer since December. He was 80.
The son of Alabama sharecroppers, Lewis served in Congress for more than three decades, pushing the causes he championed as an original Freedom Rider challenging segregation, discrimination and injustice in the Deep South – issues reverberating today in the Black Lives Matter movement.
Along with Martin Luther King Jr., he was an organizer of the March on Washington in 1963, a seminal moment in the Civil Rights Movement that led to the passage of voting rights for Blacks two years later.
He became a community activist and member of the Atlanta City Council before winning a seat in Congress in 1986. He would go on to become a best-selling author and in 2011 was awarded the nation’s highest civilian award, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, by Barack Obama, the nation’s first Black president. Lewis was elected to his 17th term in November 2018.
“(A)ll these years later, he is known as the Conscience of the United States Congress, still speaking his mind on issues of justice and equality,” Obama said in 2011, as he was bestowing the Medal of Freedom. “And generations from now, when parents teach their children what is meant by courage, the story of John Lewis will come to mind – an American who knew that change could not wait for some other person or some other time; whose life is a lesson in the fierce urgency of now.”
[via USA TODAY]
Lewis’ journey took him from protests against Jim Crow laws in the South – including the 1963 March on Washington and the 1965 Selma-to-Montgomery march known as “Bloody Sunday” — to a long career representing Georgia in the House of Representatives.