Congressman John Lewis

Congressman John Lewis

Georgia Congressman John Lewis Passes

John Lewis
John Lewis

John Lewis, thank you for your service, 1940-2020.

John Lewis died Friday, July 17, 2020. Lewis was born in rural Alabama, the son of sharecroppers. He was among the original 13 Freedom Riders, and leader of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. He helped organize the 1963 March on Washington for Freedom and Jobs. He was bloodied and beaten in Selma as he led one of the most famous marches in American history. He led demonstrations against racially segregated restrooms, hotels, restaurants, public parks and swimming pools.

Elected in 1986, Lewis became the second Black leader to be sent to Congress from Georgia since Reconstruction. He was lovingly known as “the conscience of the Congress.” The prominent civil rights activist served for more than 33 years as a congressman. Lewis attended thousands of protests and had been arrested 45 times because, as he puts it, you have to “get in trouble, good trouble, necessary trouble … to save our country and save our democracy.”

Lewis said he was inspired at age 15 by Rosa Parks and Dr. King. “The boy from Troy,” as King called Lewis, went on to become a Freedom Rider, lead the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and helped organize 1963’s March on Washington – all before age 23.

In 1960, Lewis, along with the Nashville Student Movement, challenged racial segregation of lunch counters in downtown Nashville through an organized sit-in movement. The group helped Nashville become one of the first Southern cities to desegregate restaurants.

Lewis marched with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1965 in Selma, Alabama. He led some 600 protesters in the 1965 march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma. During the march, which has come to be known as “Bloody Sunday,” his skull was fractured when he was knocked to the ground and beaten by Alabama state troopers.

“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.” ~ President Barack Obama

Lewis was presented with the 2010 Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama in 2011 in Washington, DC. In 2016 Lewis was presented with the Liberty Medal for his dedication to civil rights in Philadelphia.

Lewis was diagnosed with stage IV pancreatic cancer in December of 2019. He was moved by current global demonstrations against police killings of Black people and against systemic racism. He saw those protests as a continuation of his life’s work, though his illness had left him to watch from the sidelines.

We are deeply saddened by his passing but profoundly grateful for his immense contributions to justice. Thank you for your lifetime of service, Elder John Lewis. May the ancestors greet you warmly.

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