Democratic congressman John Lewis, a Civil rights icon, has passed away at 80.
According to multiple reports, Lewis passed away late on Friday evening. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi later confirmed the death in a statement, where she praised him as “one of the greatest heroes of American history.”
“All of us were humbled to call Congressman Lewis a colleague, and are heartbroken by his passing,” Pelosi added via the Associated Press. “May his memory be an inspiration that moves us all to, in the face of injustice, make ‘good trouble, necessary trouble.’”
According to the report, Lewis’ wife previously passed away in 2012. They are now both survived by their only son.
“It doesn't matter whether we're Black or white, Latino or Asian American or Native American, gay or straight – we're one people, we're one family…when we finally accept these truths, then we will be able to fulfill Dr. King's dream.” – John Lewis in 2013 https://t.co/x6VYpawf36 pic.twitter.com/By2n8Jreuj
— POLITICO (@politico) July 18, 2020
As the Independent Journal Review reports, Lewis announced late last year that he was battling advanced pancreatic cancer.
Lewis spent decades fighting for civil rights, joining the ranks of Martin Luther King Jr. on occasion, before serving nearly 40 years in Congress.
After being elected in 1986, Lewis served 17 terms in Congress. Prior to that, he rose from poverty and he became a civil rights movement leader. He helped Martin Luther King Jr. organize the March on Washington and Lewis was a member of King’s inner circle. In 1965, he was beaten by an Alabama state trooper while leading hundreds of voting rights marchers from Selma to Montgomery during a peaceful march. That day is known as “Bloody Sunday.” He was arrested over 40 times for civil rights activities between 1960 to 1966.
Here’s more, from the Associated Press:
Lewis joined King and four other civil rights leaders in organizing the 1963 March on Washington. He spoke to the vast crowd just before King delivered his epochal “I Have a Dream” speech.
A 23-year-old firebrand, Lewis toned down his intended remarks at the insistence of others, dropping a reference to a “scorched earth” march through the South and scaling back criticisms of President John Kennedy. It was a potent speech nonetheless, in which he vowed: “By the forces of our demands, our determination and our numbers, we shall splinter the segregated South into a thousand pieces and put them together in an image of God and democracy.”
It was almost immediately, and forever, overshadowed by the words of King, the man who had inspired him to activism.
Check it out:
Rep. John Lewis, a son of sharecroppers who survived a brutal beating by police during a landmark 1965 march in Selma, Alabama, to become a towering figure of the civil rights movement and a longtime congressman, has died after battling cancer. He was 80. https://t.co/ffB0a9NhWb pic.twitter.com/zBTlzie9ae
— CNN (@CNN) July 18, 2020
White House Press Secretary honored Lewis’ legacy in a tweet.
“Rep. John Lewis was an icon of the civil rights movement, and he leaves an enduring legacy that will never be forgotten. We hold his family in our prayers, as we remember Rep. John Lewis’ incredible contributions to our country,” she tweeted Saturday morning.
Rep. John Lewis was an icon of the civil rights movement, and he leaves an enduring legacy that will never be forgotten. We hold his family in our prayers, as we remember Rep. John Lewis’ incredible contributions to our country.
— Kayleigh McEnany (@PressSec) July 18, 2020
On Saturday afternoon, President Trump released a White House proclamation on Lewis’ death.
As a mark of respect for the memory and longstanding public service of Representative John Lewis, of Georgia, I hereby order, by the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, that the flag of the United States shall be flown at half-staff at the White House and upon all public buildings and grounds, at all military posts and naval stations, and on all naval vessels of the Federal Government in the District of Columbia and throughout the United States and its Territories and possessions through July 18, 2020. I also direct that the flag shall be flown at half‑staff for the same period at all United States embassies, legations, consular offices, and other facilities abroad, including all military facilities and naval vessels and stations.
Lewis’ fight for civil rights and the fair treatment of minorities in America never ended and he was particularly overjoyed to have witnessed the first African American elected to the White House. President Barack Obama released a statement to pay homage to Lewis’ life.
“He loved this country so much that he risked his life and his blood so that it might live up to its promise. And through the decades, he not only gave all of himself to the cause of freedom and justice, but inspired generations that followed to try to live up to his example,” Obama said.
He added, via IJR: “He believed that in all of us, there exists the capacity for great courage, a longing to do what’s right, a willingness to love all people, and to extend to them their God-given rights to dignity and respect. And it’s because he saw the best in all of us that he will continue, even in his passing, to serve as a beacon in that long journey towards a more perfect union.”
Former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton responded to Lewis’ passes, tweeting: “We have lost a giant.”
“John Lewis gave all he had to redeem America’s unmet promise of equality and justice for all, and to create a place for us to build a more perfect union together,” she added.
And: “Our hearts go out to his son John-Miles and the entire Lewis family, his able loyal staff, and all who loved and admired him the world over.”
We've lost a giant of the civil rights movement with the passing of C.T. Vivian.
I hope the next Congress honors his life and legacy, and the lives and legacies of his compatriots, by restoring the VRA. https://t.co/hTsskVVrtV
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) July 17, 2020
South Carolina Senator Tim Scott, the only black Republican in the chamber, also shared a tribute.
“I am deeply saddened by the passing of my good friend, @repjohnlewis. I’m grateful for his encouragement during my tenure in Congress. He welcomed me with open arms when I came to the House in 2011,” he tweeted.
“He was a giant among men; his life and legacy will continue to serve as an example for the generations to come,” Scott added.
I am deeply saddened by the passing of my good friend, @repjohnlewis. I’m grateful for his encouragement during my tenure in Congress. He welcomed me with open arms when I came to the House in 2011.
— Tim Scott (@SenatorTimScott) July 18, 2020
“I am encouraged by his courage, determination, and perseverance, characteristics that we can all try to emulate – especially in the wake of current events. My prayers are with the Lewis family during this time,” Scott also tweeted.
I am encouraged by his courage, determination, and perseverance, characteristics that we can all try to emulate – especially in the wake of current events. My prayers are with the Lewis family during this time.
— Tim Scott (@SenatorTimScott) July 18, 2020