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US civil rights pioneer, congressman John Lewis dies

  • Published at 12:18 pm July 18th, 2020
US Congressman John Lewis
US Congressman John Lewis (D-GA) accepts a W.E.B. Du Bois Medal at the Hutchins Center Honors at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts September 30, 2014 Reuters

'John Lewis was a titan of the civil rights movement whose goodness, faith and bravery transformed our nation'

US Representative John Lewis, a pioneer of the civil rights movement and long-time member of the US House of Representatives, has died, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Saturday.

Lewis, a Congressman from Atlanta who had announced in December that he had advanced pancreatic cancer, was 80.

John Lewis, US congressman and sharecropper's son, was civil rights hero

“John Lewis was a titan of the civil rights movement whose goodness, faith and bravery transformed our nation – from the determination with which he met discrimination at lunch counters and on Freedom Rides, to the courage he showed as a young man facing down violence and death on Edmund Pettus Bridge, to the moral leadership he brought to the Congress for more than 30 years,” Pelosi said in a statement.

“In the Congress, John Lewis was revered and beloved on both sides of the aisle and both sides of the Capitol. All of us were humbled to call Congressman Lewis a colleague, and are heartbroken by his passing.”

Lewis kept up the fight for civil rights until the end of his life. He made his last public appearance in June, as protests for racial justice swept the United States and the world.

Using a cane, he walked with Washington, DC, Mayor Muriel Bowser on a street by the White House that Bowser had just renamed Black Lives Matter Plaza, which had just been dedicated with a large yellow mural - large enough to be seen from space - reading “Black Lives Matter.”

Tributes quickly began pouring in from other politicians.

“John Lewis was an icon who fought with every ounce of his being to advance the cause of civil rights for all Americans,” said Senator Kamala Harris, the first African American to represent California in the Senate, on Twitter. “I’m devastated for his family, friends, staff - and all those whose lives he touched.

US Senator Elizabeth Warren wrote on Twitter, “John Lewis was a true American hero and the moral compass of our nation. May his courage and conviction live on in all of us as we continue to make good trouble for justice and opportunity.”

“Our conscience, he was a griot of this modern age, one who saw its hatred but fought ever towards the light,” said Stacey Abrams, a Democratic activist and founder of Fair Fight, a voting rights group in Lewis’ home state of Georgia. “And never once did he begrudge sharing its beauty. I loved him & will miss him.”