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This Is How People Are Remembering Congressman And Civil Rights Giant John Lewis

The revered civil rights icon, who spent decades fighting for equality at protests alongside Martin Luther King Jr., and later on in Congress, died Friday.

Posted on July 18, 2020, at 2:36 p.m. ET

Harry Hamburg / ASSOCIATED PRESS

Rep. John Lewis in his office on Capitol Hill in 2009.

The death of Rep. John Lewis on Friday was met with an outpouring of reverence for the beloved civil rights icon, who made the fight for equality his life's work. He was 80.

"John Lewis was a titan of the civil rights movement whose goodness, faith and bravery transformed our nation," said Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, who confirmed his death that night.

.@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.

Lewis had served in Congress since 1986, representing the Atlanta area. Throughout his career, he was one of the highest-profile members of the House, and became the longest-serving member of the Congressional Black Caucus.

Lewis announced in December that he had been diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer, but continued making public appearances and speaking out in support of causes he believed in, including recent protests against police brutality.

Prior to his career in Congress, Lewis had already emerged as a formidable figure in the civil rights movement in the 1960s as one of the "Big Six” leaders of the movement alongside Martin Luther King Jr. and others.

Jamie Sturtevant / AP

Civil rights figures lead marchers across the Edmund Pettus Bridge during the re-creation of the 1965 Selma to Montgomery march on March 4, 1990.

Alongside hundreds of other protesters, Lewis participated in the 1965 Selma to Montgomery March for full voting rights for Black Americans. He was among those injured by law enforcement on what came to be known as “Bloody Sunday,” suffering a fractured skull and other injuries.

According to his official biography, Lewis had been arrested more than 40 times during the civil rights movement.

In 2011, Lewis was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest award given to civilians, by then-president Barack Obama, who paid tribute to Lewis in a statement Friday.

"He loved this country so much that he risked his life and his blood so that it might live up to its promise," Obama said. "And through the decades, he not only gave all of himself to the cause of freedom and justice, but inspired generations that followed to try to live up to his example."

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

Obama also memorialized another icon of the civil rights movement, the Reverend C.T. Vivian, who also died Friday at age 95, his daughter told CNN.

In one of his last interviews, Lewis spoke with Oprah Winfrey about how other leaders of the civil rights movement inspired him to get into "good trouble," a phrase that came to define his life's work.

"One day I heard of Rosa Parks, heard the words of Martin Luther King Jr. on the radio," Lewis said. "The words of Dr. King and the actions of Rosa Parks inspired me to get in trouble. And I've been getting in trouble ever since."

I had a final chance to tell him what I’ve said every time I’ve been in his presence: “Thank you for your courage leading the fight for Freedom. My life as it is would not have been possible without you.”

In recent years, Lewis wrote a trilogy of graphic novels about his experience at Selma called March, and fans and admirers remembered his work educating younger generations about the movement.

My favorite thing about John Lewis is that at ComicCon, he cosplayed as his younger self, wearing the same coat and backpack he wore at the March on Selma and led kids in a little march around the convention. 🖤

In addition to fighting for the rights of Black Americans, Lewis was a staunch defender of LGBTQ rights, and gave an impassioned speech against the Defense of Marriage Act in Congress in 1996.

"This bill is a slap in the face of the Declaration of Independence," Lewis said at the time. "It denies gay men and women the right to liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Marriage is a basic human right."

Many lawmakers and activists paid tribute to Lewis on Twitter.

Rep. John Lewis has passed. It is not enough to say he was a revered civil rights icon. He was a man of impeccable integrity who dedicated his life to fighting against racism, discrimination & injustice. John was a true leader who inspired us all to have the courage to fight.

John Lewis was a giant among men. A Civil Rights Icon, an indefatigable champion for justice, and a hell raiser known for making ‘good trouble.’ In mourning his passing, let us aspire to build the nation that Congressman Lewis believed it could be. May he Rest In Peace.

There are simply no words to capture the enormous life and leadership of John Lewis. From his youth, John Lewis gave his blood, sweat, tears, and life in the struggle for a better nation. To honor that gift is to fight for future generations, just as he fought for us. https://t.co/4OjSwfoXr8

Farewell, sir. You did, indeed, fight the good fight and get into a lot of good trouble. You served God and humanity well. Thank you. Take your rest. #JohnLewis

Thank you for these words. Rest in power #JohnLewis https://t.co/S69Lt9YInx

Sharing my reflections on the passing of @repjohnlewis. Rest in heavenly peace. #GoodTrouble.

Republican leaders also commemorated Lewis. But some, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, faced criticism for their extensive efforts to dismantle the Voting Rights Act in opposition to what Lewis had fought for his whole life.

Bills to protect and restore voting rights are on your desk. They've been there for over a year. You've rushed through confirmation of judges who don't believe in anything that @repjohnlewis fought his entire life for. You want to really honor him, protect the right to vote. https://t.co/R2uREUCz4p

It is very possible to admire someone with whom you disagree, but a central focus of the Republican Party for many years has been undoing the work of John Lewis in order to preserve power for their mostly White political party. In other words, this is a bunch of bullshit https://t.co/zP1uUDtKHV

On Saturday afternoon, President Trump tweeted that he was "saddened" to hear about Lewis's death.

Saddened to hear the news of civil rights hero John Lewis passing. Melania and I send our prayers to he and his family.

Lewis was also remembered fondly by the journalists he worked with over the years, who recalled his dedication to the civil rights movement and compassion for others.

"When I wrote that Black people have been the perfecters of this democracy, he was the top of my mind," New York Times journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones tweeted. "He was one of the greatest Americans we ever produced, loved this country that didn't love us so deeply."

I’ve been too emotional to write something proper here about Rep. John Lewis. When I wrote that Black people have been the perfecters of this democracy, he was top of my mind. He was one of the greatest Americans we ever produced, loved this country that didn’t love us so deeply.

There aren't words to describe the profound impact of Rep. John Lewis on this country. He was a true American hero. Rest in Power. https://t.co/dn2GhR6O3j

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