Civil rights era icon Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) has died at the age of 80.
Last year, Lewis was diagnosed with stage IV pancreatic cancer, and it is being reported that he has succumbed to complications from that disease on Friday night.
Lewis tributes pour in
Former presidents, members of Congress, colleagues, friends, and even world leaders are paying their respects to Lewis on social media.
Lewis represented Georgia in Congress over a span of 33 years. But, for an even longer period, he was a leader in the fight for civil rights, which former President Barack Obama captured in his tribute.
“Born into modest means in the heart of the Jim Crow south, he understood that he was just one of a long line of heroes in the struggle for racial justice,” Obama wrote. “Early on, he embraced the principles of nonviolent resistance and civil disobedience as the means to bring about real change in this country, understanding that such tactics had the power not only to change laws but to change hearts and minds as well.”
Lewis was able to see the success he and his movement had achieved in witnessing Obama become the first African-American ever to be elected president. “When we were organizing voter-registration drives, going on the Freedom Rides, sitting in, coming here to Washington for the first time, getting arrested, going to jail, being beaten, I never thought — I never dreamed — of the possibility that an African-American would one day be elected President of the United States,” Lewis said before Obama’s inauguration in 2009.
Obama would go on in 2011 to award Lewis with the highest civilian honor — the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Lewis’s non-violent approach to activism and his humble personality, over the years, earned him the respect of politicians of all persuasions.
“Laura and I join our fellow Americans in mourning the loss of Congressman John Lewis,” wrote former President George W. Bush. “As a young man marching for equality in Selma, Alabama, John answered brutal violence with courageous hope. And throughout his career as a civil rights leader and public servant, he worked to make our country a more perfect union. America can best honor John’s memory by continuing his journey toward liberty and justice for all.”
Upon Lewis’s death, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) remarked, “I will never forget joining hands with John as members of Congress sang We Shall Overcome at a 2008 ceremony honoring his friend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. It could not have been more humbling to consider what he had suffered and sacrificed so those words could be sung in that place.”
President Donald Trump responded to the news Saturday morning, tweeting, “Saddened to hear the news of civil rights hero John Lewis passing. Melania and I send our prayers to he and his family.”
President Trump has called for flags to be flown at half-staff “as a mark of respect for the memory and longstanding service” of Lewis.