December 24, 2020

US Rep. John Lewis, a civil rights legend and longtime congressman, died at the age of 80 on July 17.

“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,” his family said in a statement. “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.”

Lewis was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer last year. He represented Georgia’s 5th Congressional District, which includes much of Atlanta, for more than 30 years.

In the 1960s, Lewis was chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. It was one of the groups that organized the 1963 March on Washington, and Lewis was the youngest keynote speaker at the historic event.

In 1965, Lewis helped organize the Selma to Montgomery marches, which were held to protest discriminatory practices that prevented many Black people from voting in the South. He suffered a fractured skull when Alabama state troopers used brutal force to break up the march.

By his own count, Lewis was arrested more than 40 times during his days of civil rights activism.

“Time and again, he faced down death so that all of us could share equally in the joys of life,” said President Barack Obama in 2011, when he awarded Lewis the Presidential Medal of Freedom.


John Lewis, right, and fellow student demonstrator James Bevel stand inside the door of a Nashville, Tennessee, restaurant during a sit-in protest in 1960. The manager turned on a fumigating machine to disrupt the sit-in.Jack Corn/The Tennessean/USA Today Network


John Lewis has tape on his head, marking the spot where he was struck during racial violence in Montgomery, Alabama, in May 1961. That month, the Freedom Ride movement began with interstate buses driving into the Deep South to challenge segregation that persisted despite recent Supreme Court rulings. In some cities, the activists were arrested and brutally beaten.Bettmann Archive/Getty Images

John Lewis and James Zwerg, another Freedom Rider, stand together after being attacked by segregationists in Montgomery.Bettmann Archive/Getty Images

This police mug shot of John Lewis was taken in Jackson, Mississippi, after he used a restroom reserved for White people during the Freedom Ride movement.Kypros/Hulton Archive/Getty Images


John Lewis addresses the crowd during the 1963 March on Washington.Afro American Newspapers/Gado/Getty Images
US President John F. Kennedy, fourth from right, meets with John Lewis and other civil rights leaders after the 1963 March on Washington. Lewis is in the center, next to Martin Luther King Jr. Universal History Archive/UIG/Getty Images


John Lewis, as chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, reads a document in a New York office in 1964. The document was “We Shall Overcome; the Authorized Record of the March on Washington Produced by the Council for United Civil Rights Leadership.”Robert Elfstrom/Villon Films/Getty Images


John Lewis, in the light coat, marches beside Hosea Williams as they lead other civil rights activists in the first march from Selma to Montgomery, protesting the lack of voting rights for Black citizens, on March 7, 1965. That day the march was violently ended by Alabama state troopers, an incident that is now known as “Bloody Sunday.”Spider Martin
John Lewis, Williams and other marchers face a line of state troopers blocking the Edmund Pettus Bridge.Spider Martin/The Spider Martin Civil Rights Collection/National Archives
Alabama state troopers, swinging billy clubs, break up the Selma to Montgomery march on March 7, 1965. John Lewis is being beaten in the foreground by a state trooper. He suffered a fractured skull. Troopers also fired tear gas, and troopers mounted on horses charged the protesters.Associated Press
John Lewis walks with Martin Luther King Jr. and others during another Selma to Montgomery march later in the month. From left are Ralph David Abernathy, James Forman, King, the Rev. Jesse Douglas and John Lewis.Steve Schapiro/Corbis via Getty Images
John Lewis, in the vest, joins King and King’s wife, Coretta Scott King, before a rally on the steps on the Alabama Capitol on March 25, 1965. A few months later, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act, which ensured that everyone’s right to vote would be protected and enforced.Charles Shaw/Getty Images


John Lewis and his wife, Lillian, attend a campaign rally in Atlanta in April 1977. He was running for Congress but lost the Democratic primary that year to Wyche Fowler Jr.Dwight Ross Jr./AP


John Lewis speaks outside Atlanta City Hall in October 1982. Floyd Edwin Jillson/AP


President Bill Clinton applauds in 2000 after leading marchers across Selma’s Edmund Pettus Bridge on the 35th anniversary of “Bloody Sunday.” With Clinton. from left, are the Rev. Jesse Jackson, Coretta Scott King and John and Lillian Lewis.Reuters


John Lewis is comforted by Coretta Scott King during a ceremony at the Lincoln Memorial in August 2003. A plaque was unveiled there honoring Martin Luther King Jr.Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images


John Lewis poses for a photo at his offices in Washington, DC, in March 2009. Jeff Hutchens/Getty Images
John Lewis is led away in handcuffs by a Secret Service officer in Washington, DC, as he protested Sudan’s Darfur conflict in April 2009.Tim Sloan/AFP/Getty Images
President Barack Obama awards Lewis the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011. “All these years later, John is known as the Conscience of the United States Congress, still speaking his mind on issues of justice and equality,” Obama said. “And generations from now, when parents teach their children what is meant by courage, the story of John Lewis will come to mind — an American who knew that change could not wait for some other person or some other time; whose life is a lesson in the fierce urgency of now.”Brooks Kraft/Corbis/Getty Images


John Lewis holds hands with House Minority Leader and his friend, Nancy Pelosi, as Democrats participate in a walkout to protest a June 2012 vote on whether Attorney General Eric Holder was in contempt of Congress. Alex Wong/Getty Images


At the funeral services for his wife, Lillian, in January 2013. They were married for 44 years.Kent D. Johnson/AP
John Lewis is joined by actress Gabrielle Union as the US Postal Service unveils a stamp commemorating the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington.Charles Dharapak/AP
John Lewis joins President Obama and his family on a march toward Selma’s Edmund Pettus Bridge on the 50th anniversary of “Bloody Sunday.”Doug Mills/The New York Times/Redux


John Lewis recounts his experience in Selma to a group of students who had gathered on the House steps in April 2015. Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call/Getty Images


John Lewis sits with other Democrats on the House floor as they try to force a vote on gun control measures in June 2016. Lewis launched the sit-in protest in the wake of the Orlando nightclub shooting, which at the time was the deadliest mass shooting in US history. John Lewis/Facebook
John Lewis receives a standing ovation at the September 2016 opening of the National Museum of African American History and Culture. At left is President Barack Obama, first lady Michelle Obama, former President George W. Bush and former first lady Laura Bush.David Hume Kennerly/Getty Images


John Lewis stands with French President Emmanuel Macron at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in Washington, DC, in April 2018.Eric Baradat/AFP/Getty Images


John Lewis, with actress Amandla Stenberg, speaks on stage during the Academy Awards in February 2019. He was introducing the movie “Green Book,” which went on to win best picture.Kevin Winter/Getty Images
In March 2019, John Lewis walks through monuments honoring the victims of racial lynchings at the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Alabama. Jake Crandall/Advertiser/USA Today Network/Reuters
John Lewis prepares to pay his respects to US Rep. Elijah Cummings, who was lying in state in October 2019.Melina Mara/Pool/Getty Images


John Lewis is assisted near Selma’s Edmund Pettus Bridge while attending a March 2020 ceremony marking the 55th anniversary of “Bloody Sunday.” A few months earlier, John’s office announced that he had been diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer.Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution/TNS/Reuters
John Lewis poses for a photo with Washington, DC, Mayor Muriel Bowser at the Black Lives Matter Plaza in Washington D.C., USA in June 2020.from Twitter/MayorBowser
John Lewis’ temporary gravestone
A visitor to the memorial for Mr. Lewis next to the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala.Credit…Erik S Lesser/EPA, 
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