Remembering Lifelong Civil Rights Fighter Rep. John Lewis

Uptown Magazine

John Lewis made his mark on American history, legislation, and lives as he fought for freedom and civil rights for all.

Rep. John Robert Lewis died on July 17, 2020 at the age of 80 from stage-4 pancreatic cancer.

"It is with inconsolable grief and enduring sadness that we announce the passing of U.S. Rep. John Lewis," his family said in a statement. "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."

Lewis will be remembered for being born to cotton sharecroppers in a segregated America; fighting the unfairness of Jim Crow by making “good trouble” through nonviolent protests and sit-ins; challenging segregation at interstate bus terminals throughout the South and the District of Columbia as a Freedom Rider; helping the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and others lead a voting rights march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma; suffering a fracture to his skull during the aforementioned march that was later termed “Bloody Sunday” and helped garner the nation’s and President Lyndon B. Johnson’s support for the Voting Rights Act of 1965; being arrested more than 40 times (by his count) for fighting for equality and freedom; being elected to the Atlanta city council in 1981 and then Congress as US representative for Georgia’s 5th Congressional District in 1987; serving as the moral conscience of Congress for his dedication to the nonviolent fight for civil rights for more than three decades; focusing on poverty, education, and healthcare while in Congress; earning the National Book Award for co-writing a series of graphic novels about the Civil Rights Movement; witnessing America’s first Black president; and receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, which was placed around his neck by President Barack Obama in 2011.

With more than 50 years on the front-lines of the civil rights, Lewis certainly made his mark on American history, legislation, and lives. Many notables, including Obama and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, honored him with words of appreciation.

Lewis’s friend and civil rights icon Rev. C.T. Vivian also passed away yesterday, July 17th, at the age of 95.