Nearly nine months to the day after his fellow longtime Democratic leader, Congressional colleague and Trump nemesis Elijah Cummings succumbed to a rare form of cancer, longtime Atlanta Congressman Rep. John Lewis, who represented Georgia’s 5th district for more than 30 years, has died after a brief battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 80.
Lewis, whose district includes 3/4ths of the city of Atlanta, first came to national prominence as the leader of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee – otherwise known as SNCC – in the aerly 1960s. He became a leader in the national civil rights movement and was the youngest speaker during the March on Washington in 1963, when Dr. Martin Luther King delivered his “I have a dream” speech. He helped lead the 1965 march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama’s capital.
He was also the last living member of the “Big Six” group of civil rights organizers who led the March on Washington.
The Congressman reportedly first learned of his Stage IV pancreatic cancer in December during a routine medical visit.
Lewis was born the son of sharecroppers on Feb. 21, 1940. He and his siblings grew up working on the family farm in Troy, Ala. Like many other cities in the southern US at the time, Troy was legally segregated by race.
Lewis’s family released a statement confirming his death and expressing their tremendous grief:
“It is with inconsolable grief and enduring sadness that we announce the passing of U.S. Rep. John Lewis. He was honored and respected as the conscience of the US Congress and an icon of American history, but we knew him as a loving father and brother. He was a stalwart champion in the on-going struggle to demand respect for the dignity and worth of every human being. He dedicated his entire life to non-violent activism and was an outspoken advocate in the struggle for equal justice in America. He will be deeply missed.”
Condolences poured in on twitter from politicians, civil rights figures and others.
John Lewis changed our world in profound and immeasurable ways. @GAFirstLady, the girls, and I are praying for all of his loved ones, friends, and colleagues in this incredibly difficult time. (2/2)
— Governor Brian P. Kemp (@GovKemp) July 18, 2020
On the 50th anniversary of the march on Selma in 2015, Lewis marched with then-President Barack Obama on the Edmund Pettus Bridge where he and the other marchers faced off against Sheriff Jim Clark and a squad of police tasked with breaking up the peaceful march.
Not many of us get to live to see our own legacy play out in such a meaningful, remarkable way. John Lewis did:https://t.co/KbVfYt5CeQ
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) July 18, 2020
Obama bestowed a presidential medal of freedom on Lewis back in 2010.
Martin Luther King’s son was one of the civil rights icons who weighed in.
John Lewis was an American treasure.
He gave a voice to the voiceless, and he reminded each of us that the most powerful nonviolent tool is the vote.
Our hearts feel empty without our friend, but we find comfort knowing that he is free at last.
— Martin Luther King III (@OfficialMLK3) July 18, 2020
Billary released a statement offering their condolences. Somehow, they failed to mention the fact that Bill’s political career started in the early days of post-Jim Crow south, and his tough on crime policies helped fill America’s jails with nonviolent offenders, often black men.
— ABC News (@ABC) July 18, 2020
President Obama once said that Lewis was one of his “heroes” and that “I was only there because of the sacrifices he made”.