U.S. Rep. John Lewis, was the youngest and last surviving member of the Big Six civil rights activists who led the fight to end legalized segregation and overturn Jim Crow laws. He was arrested dozens of times and also beaten as a Freedom Rider. Alex Wong/Getty Images
WASHINGTON — Civil Rights icon and longtime Georgia Congressman John Lewis, who advocated for change through nonviolence, died late Friday night at the age of 80.
The Atlanta Democrat was diagnosed with stage four pancreatic cancer in late December. U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi confirmed his death, saying the country had lost “one of the greatest heroes of American history.” Lewis was often referred to as the conscience of Congress.
The Troy, Ala. native is best known nationally for the beating he endured at the hands of police in 1965 while leading hundreds in the Bloody Sunday march across Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama. Images of the violence – and his beating, in particular – are often credited with spurring passage of the Voting Rights Act that same year.
Lewis was the youngest and last surviving member of the Big Six civil rights activists who led the fight to end legalized segregation and overturn Jim Crow laws. He was arrested dozens of times and also beaten as a Freedom Rider. He spoke at the March on Washington in 1963, sharing a stage with Martin Luther King Jr.
Here’s a look at how Pennsylvania’s elected officials responded to the news:
U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa:
Deeply saddened by the news of Congressman John Lewis’s passing—an American hero and relentless champion for justice with unwavering optimism for our Nation. The world is a little darker this morning without his light.
— Senator Bob Casey (@SenBobCasey) July 18, 2020
U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa.:
John Lewis was a great American.
A civil rights leader and dedicated public servant who successfully led numerous fights in the name of equality and against racism and discrimination.
Our nation will miss John Lewis. I extend my condolences to the Lewis family. #RIPJohnLewis
— Senator Pat Toomey (@SenToomey) July 18, 2020
U.S. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, R-1st District:
Incredibly saddened by the loss of my friend, colleague, and civil rights icon Congresman John Lewis. John was such a gentle soul with the heart of a lion whom I’ve learned so much from. (1/2) https://t.co/dDAa5mxJpY
— Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick 🇺🇸 (@RepBrianFitz) July 18, 2020
U.S. Rep. Brendan Boyle, D-2nd District:
This photo was taken of us at about midnight while we were engaging in a daylong sit-in on the House floor to protest for a vote on our gun violence bill in the wake of the Orlando nightclub shooting. https://t.co/Hv4FWXkZIH
— US Rep Brendan Boyle (@RepBrendanBoyle) July 18, 2020
U.S. Rep. Dwight Evans, D-3rd District:
Congressman John Lewis was a true American hero. He has inspired me for decades. He and so many others sacrificed so much for our right to vote. He was not afraid to make what he called ‘good trouble.’https://t.co/FK4FUBg7Wn
— Congressman Dwight Evans (@RepDwightEvans) July 18, 2020
U.S. Rep. Madeleine Dean, D-4th District:
It is impossible to convey the impact John Lewis has had on this nation as we strive for a more perfect union. It is difficult to imagine a future without his presence, but we will continue the fight for equality inspired by his fight and directed by his wisdom. pic.twitter.com/VRgd0FdIh8
— Congresswoman Madeleine Dean (@RepDean) July 18, 2020
U.S. Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon, D-5th District:
Congressman John Lewis embodied courage, resilience, determination and kindness. He led by example and inspired others to follow. He called out evil but welcomed reconciliation. His life and his legacy will forever be the moral compass of change — a lesson in #goodtrouble. 1/4 pic.twitter.com/cWosEC9BsV
— Congresswoman Mary Gay Scanlon (@RepMGS) July 18, 2020
U.S. Rep. Chrissy Houlahan, D-6th District:
We have tragically lost a legend with the passing of John Lewis. I was honored to serve along side him, if only briefly, but I’m so extraordinarily grateful for his steady generational influence guiding us all towards a better, more just, more perfect union. /1
— Chrissy Houlahan (@RepHoulahan) July 18, 2020
U.S. Rep. Matt Cartwright, D-8th District:
Please say a prayer with Marion & me for the everlasting rest of John Lewis, who stood so bravely for nonviolent protest thru which he helped achieve terrific progress on civil rights. I’ll always remember traveling to Selma w/ him & I’ll always be proud to say I served with him.
— Matt Cartwright (@RepCartwright) July 18, 2020
U.S. Rep. Dan Meuser, R-9th District:
(1/3) As a young boy who grew up in the segregated south, Rep. John Lewis went on to become one of the great civil rights leaders of his generation. He was also widely respected by his colleagues on both sides of the aisle as a member of Congress for over thirty years.
— Congressman Dan Meuser (@RepMeuser) July 18, 2020
U.S. Rep. Scott Perry, R-10th District:
I’m saddened to learn of the passing of Congressman and civil rights icon, John Lewis. Our Nation was made better by your leadership and courage, John, and you will be missed. You and your family will remain in my prayers. I wish you Godspeed.
— RepScottPerry (@RepScottPerry) July 18, 2020
U.S. Rep. Lloyd Smucker, R-11th District:
Cindy and I were saddened to learn of the passing of Civil Rights leader and my colleague Rep. John Lewis. We are praying for his family and join those who grieve his passing. He devoted his life to making America a more perfect union. https://t.co/lTrPvDfYmc
— Rep. Lloyd Smucker (@RepSmucker) July 18, 2020
U.S. Rep. Fred Keller, R-12th District:
— Congressman Fred Keller (@RepFredKeller) July 18, 2020
U.S. Rep. John Joyce, R-13th District:
Congressman John Lewis is an American hero who stood for equality and justice in the face of evil. For decades, @RepJohnLewis selflessly served the people of Georgia and our nation, and he has left an unparalleled and indelible legacy.
— John Joyce (@RepJohnJoyce) July 18, 2020
U.S. Rep. Guy Reschenthaler, R-14th District:
John Lewis was a pioneer of the civil rights movement and tirelessly fought for change and equal rights his entire life. He was an exemplary representative of his fellow Georgians in Congress. Rest In Peace John. You will be missed.
— Rep. Guy Reschenthaler (@GReschenthaler) July 18, 2020
U.S. Rep. Glenn ‘GT’ Thompson, R-15th District:
Congressman John Lewis has left us to be with God. His passing is an incredible loss for the nation. Our world is a better place thanks to his service and sacrifice, and I am grateful for the opportunity to have served with him in Congress. Praying for his family and our country.
— Glenn 'GT' Thompson (@CongressmanGT) July 18, 2020
U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly, R-16th District:
Our nation was made better because of John Lewis' fearless stand for equality with Dr. Martin Luther King. Mr. Lewis' time on Earth was well spent and touched all of us. I am honored to have served with him and to have called this great man a friend.
— Rep. Mike Kelly (@MikeKellyPA) July 18, 2020
U.S. Rep. Conor Lamb, D-17th District:
I came in to Congress as a freshman class of one. @repjohnlewis didn't know me.
But one day I passed him in a hall, he stopped, sort of raised his brow, & said "How you getting on?"
It was like there was nothing else he'd rather know, nothing else on his mind in that moment.
— Conor Lamb (@ConorLambPA) July 19, 2020
U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle, D-18th District:
We’ve lost a real American hero. John Lewis was a champion for civil rights, a dedicated public servant, and a kind and generous individual. Rest In Peace, my friend. Yours was a life well lived.
— Mike Doyle (@USRepMikeDoyle) July 18, 2020
Philadelphia City Council President Darrell Clarke:
This is a tremendous loss for our nation and comes at a crucial moment in our history. In our grief, let us commit to honoring the man by finishing his work.
Rest In Power, Sir. https://t.co/fvgY8hH0q9
— Darrell Clarke (@Darrell_Clarke) July 18, 2020
State Rep. Chris Rabb, D-Philadelphia:
— Rep. Chris Rabb (@RepRabb) July 19, 2020
State Sen. Art Haywood, D-Philadelphia:
A man of faith, a man of principle and a man of action.
As a Congressman and Civil Rights leader, Rep. John Lewis’ impact on this world is immeasurable.
We are all living in a better world, thanks to Rep. Lewis.
Rest In Peace. https://t.co/YoEnLya6g7
— Senator Art Haywood (@SenatorHaywood) July 18, 2020
State Rep. Stephen Kinsey, D-Philadelphia:
Thank you both for your service! The Honorable John Lewis and Reverend C.T. Vivian both fought the good fight as public servants. May both their legacies live on. Rest in power Kings 👑 ✊🏿 #repjohnlewis #revctvivian 🙏🏾 pic.twitter.com/qo0BWmCjEm
— Stephen Kinsey (@RepKinsey) July 18, 2020
State Sen. Sharif Street, D-Philadelphia:
We lost two champions of the civil rights era, Congressman John Lewis and Rev Condy Tindell, on Friday. A significant loss as we still grapple w/ protests and demands for racial equality today.We will carry the torch of liberty forward. Rest in Power God Bless. #BlackLivesMatter pic.twitter.com/yB3GJ0OOLd
— Senator Sharif Street (@SenSharifStreet) July 18, 2020
Rep. Joanna McClinton, D-Philadelphia:
Thanking GOD for ALL OF THAT #GoodTROUBLE you got into for eighty years, showing us what it means to live purposefully, selflessly and boldly!! @repjohnlewis 👑👑🙏🏾🙏🏾✊🏾✊🏾🖤🖤 #THANKYOU #JohnLewis #NecessaryTrouble pic.twitter.com/PcLjEXuMfp
— Joanna McClinton (@RepMcClinton) July 18, 2020
Rep. Summer Lee, D-Allegheny:
I think of generations of our ancestors who marched us courageously & unceasingly ever closer to a promised land they'd never get to see.
We can never repay them. But we can fight onward to liberation and carry them w/us.
— Summer Lee (@SummerForPA) July 18, 2020
Jill Nolin, a reporter for the Georgia Recorder, a sibling site of the Pennsylvania Capital-Star, contributed to this story.
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