On Friday, July 17, 2020, representative John Lewis passed away from pancreatic cancer. Lewis served in congress as a Democrat for Georgia’s Fifth Congressional District for over three decades. He was known as a political force and ally for marginalized communities across America. For decades, he fought for racial equality and justice in the House of Representatives.
Not only was he a Georgia congressman, he was also critical to the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, working alongside Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. He had always been an avid supporter for civil rights and equality among these marginalized groups. Lewis participated in lunch counter sit-ins and joined the Freedom Riders in challenging segregated buses. At the age of twenty-three, Lewis was a keynote speaker at the March on Washington in 1963. He was committed to his goals during this movement. At twenty-five years old, he helped lead the march for voting rights on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma. During this march, he and other marchers were met by brutal and heavily armed state and local police who ferociously attacked him and the other marchers. During this incident, his skull was fractured. The actions that took place at this march increased support for the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson. Throughout his entire civil rights career, John Lewis was arrested more than forty times. Despite this, he continued his fight for civil rights.
Lewis was elected to the Atlanta City Council in 1981 and became an advocate for ethics in government and neighborhood preservation. In 1986, Lewis ran for a seat in Georgia’s Fifth Congressional District. He was elected and would continue to serve in the House of Representatives for seventeen terms. While in the House, Lewis would push for more racial justice and hold a firm grasp to his beliefs. He was looked at by others as one of the most powerful speakers in the House itself. In 2011, Lewis was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama.
Lewis’s fight for civil rights has inspired generations of people to join the fight. With the intense divide among the American people today, Lewis stated that “[he has] been in some kind of fight — for freedom, equality, basic human rights — for nearly [his] entire life. [He has] never faced a fight quite like the one now.”
In December of 2019, Lewis announced that he had been diagnosed with stage four pancreatic cancer, and he promised to fight. Seven months later, Lewis passed away. Lewis is looked upon, by both the left and right, as one of the greatest freedom fighters in American history.