John Lewis died Friday of pancreatic cancer at age 80. The world will never be the same because of him and without him. He fought his entire life to make sure everyone understood that Black Lives Matter, that equality matters, and that we must fight for it with everything we have, even if it means being clubbed in the head for the effort.
New York Times remembers him this way:
On the front lines of the bloody campaign to end Jim Crow laws, with blows to his body and a fractured skull to prove it, Mr. Lewis was a valiant stalwart of the civil rights movement and the last surviving speaker at the historic March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963.
More than a half-century later, after the killing in May of George Floyd, a Black man in police custody in Minneapolis, Mr. Lewis welcomed the resulting global demonstrations against systemic racism and the police killings of Black people. He saw those demonstrations, the largest protest movement in American history, as a continuation of his life’s work, though his illness had left him to watch from the sideline.
In a statement, Speaker Pelosi wrote:
“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.
“In the halls of the Capitol, he was fearless in his pursuit of a more perfect union, whether through his Voter Empowerment Act to defend the ballot, his leadership on the Equality Act to end discrimination against LGBTQ Americans or his work as a Senior Member of the Ways and Means Committee to ensure that we invest in what we value as a nation.
“Every day of John Lewis’s life was dedicated to bringing freedom and justice to all. As he declared 57 years ago during the March on Washington, standing in the shadow of the Lincoln Memorial: ‘Our minds, souls, and hearts cannot rest until freedom and justice exist for all the people.’ How fitting it is that even in the last weeks of his battle with cancer, John summoned the strength to visit the peaceful protests where the newest generation of Americans had poured into the streets to take up the unfinished work of racial justice. His visit with Mayor Bowser, the Mayor of Washington, painted an iconic picture of justice.
I will remember him always fighting for what's right, like he did almost exactly 2 years ago in Atlanta, as he fought to reunite the families torn apart by Trump's immigration police.
From his family:
Family of John Lewis: "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...a stalwart champion in the ongoing struggle to demand respect for the dignity and worth of every human being" pic.twitter.com/AYD0dba40f
— Breaking News (@BreakingNews) July 18, 2020
President Barack Obama:
Not many of us get to live to see our own legacy play out in such a meaningful, remarkable way. John Lewis did:https://t.co/KbVfYt5CeQ
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) July 18, 2020
Speaker Nancy Pelosi
.@RepJohnLewis: hero, champion & challenge to conscience of the nation. Your visit with the newest voices for justice at the Black Lives Matter mural with @MayorBowser was wonderful & iconic. Thank you for that final public statement in furtherance of a more perfect union. pic.twitter.com/Us1tCmsYYd
— Nancy Pelosi (@SpeakerPelosi) July 18, 2020
My heart is with his family and staff as they grieve his loss. May he rest in power forever.
Let's get in some "good trouble" in his memory.