Civil rights leader and Congressman John Lewis has died at age 80. According to TMZ, Lewis died after battling pancreatic cancer. He was diagnosed with the disease in December 2019.
Speaker of House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi announced the news in a statement, saying, “John Lewis was a titan of the civil rights movement whose goodness, faith and bravery transformed our nation – from the determination with which he met discrimination at lunch counters and on Freedom Rides, to the courage he showed as a young man facing down violence and death on Edmund Pettus Bridge, to the moral leadership he brought to the Congress for more than 30 years.”
She continued, “Every day of John Lewis’s life was dedicated to bringing freedom and justice to all. As he declared 57 years ago during the March on Washington, standing in the shadow of the Lincoln Memorial: ‘Our minds, souls, and hearts cannot rest until freedom and justice exist for all the people."”
MORE ON JOHN LEWIS
According to The New York Times, Lewis became involved in the civil rights movement when he was only 15. He was one of the original members of the 13 Freedom Riders who fought against segregated interstate travel in the 1960s. He also founded the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and organized lunch counter sit-ins to fight segregation.
Lewis led the March on Washington and the March on Selma along with Dr. Martin Luther King. Jr. He was also the youngest keynote speaker at the March on Washington. During the March in Selma, which led to Bloody Sunday, a state trooper cracked his head with a billy club. Images of his beating helped pushed for the passing of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
He became a member of Congress in 1986 and served for 17 terms.
Former President Barack Obama spoke on Lewis' legacy, writing on Medium, “I first met John when I was in law school, and I told him then that he was one of my heroes. Years later, when I was elected a U.S. Senator, I told him that I stood on his shoulders, When I was elected President of the United States, I hugged him on the inauguration stand before I was sworn in and told him I was only there because of the sacrifices he made.”
In 2011, Obama awarded Lewis the Presidential Medal of Freedom.