After a months-long battle with pancreatic cancer, Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) has died at the age of 80.
“All of us were humbled to call Congressman Lewis a colleague, and are heartbroken by his passing,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said in a statement confirming Lewis’ death.
“May his memory be an inspiration that moves us all to, in the face of injustice, make ‘good trouble, necessary trouble.'”
Legacy of activism
Lewis began his long career as a civil rights activist protesting alongside Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. outside the Lincoln Memorial as part of the March on Washington. According to the Washington Post, Lewis was the last living speaker from that historic event.
The New York Post reported, “he forged his reputation in the 1960s, most notably during the 1965 civil rights march in Selma, during which he suffered a skull fracture at the end of a police billy club.”
The Post continued, “as one of the original Freedom Riders, in 1961 he joined with black and white protesters in challenging segregation at a Mississippi bus station, spending 37 days in a sweltering, Jackson jail after using a “whites only” bathroom.”
After joining the civil rights movement at the young age of 23, Lewis dedicated his life to combatting racism and advocating for justice.
He ran for and was elected to Congress in 1986 as the “conscience of Congress,” and was highly respected by both his Democrat and Republican colleagues.
Tributes pour in
“Farewell, sir,” wrote Bernice King, the youngest child of MLK, on Twitter. “You did, indeed, fight the good fight and get into a lot of good trouble. You served God and humanity well. Thank you. Take your rest.”
Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) issued a statement after news of Lewis’ death broke, writing:
The Senate and the nation mourn the loss of Congressman John Lewis, a pioneering civil rights leader who put his life on the line to fight racism, promote equal rights, and bring our nation into greater alignment with its founding principles.
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) wrote on Twitter that Lewis “changed our world in profound and immeasurable ways … A civil rights icon, freedom fighter, and beloved Georgian, @repjohnlewis lost his battle with cancer today.”
“Our nation will never be the same without him. There are no words to adequately express the sadness that countless Americans are feeling upon learning this news.”