Photo credits: Jeremy Moorhead/CNN
One of America’s most revered figures from the Civil Rights Movement during the 1960s has passed away, according to a number of national media outlets.
Politico reported on Friday (July 17) that U.S. House Representative John Lewis (pictured) succumbed to pancreatic cancer. Lewis was diagnosed with this deadly form of cancer in December 2019. After his diagnosis and subsequent treatment for pancreatic cancer, Lewis vowed to continue serving Georgia’s Fifth Congressional District. He was first elected as a Democratic Congressman to this seat in 1987.
“I have been in some kind of fight — for freedom, equality, basic human rights — for nearly my entire life. I have never faced a fight quite like the one I have now. While I am clear-eyed about the prognosis, doctors have told me that recent medical advances have made this type of cancer treatable,” Lewis said in an official statement after his diagnosis.
“In many cases, [cancer] treatment options are no longer as debilitating as they once were, and [today], I have a fighting chance,” he continued.
However, a spokesperson from his office confirmed Lewis’s death at the age of 80 roughly seven months after he announced his cancer diagnosis. Though the highly-heralded civil rights icon has passed on, his lifetime achievements as a non-violent champion against black oppression in America will always be remembered.
A number of notable dignitaries released public statements after Lewis’s death, which honored him for his valiant, lifelong struggle against racism.
“Today, America mourns the loss of one of the greatest heroes of American history: Congressman John Lewis, the Conscience of the Congress,” said U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in a statement released late Friday evening.
Prior to his 33-year tenure in the U.S. Congress, Lewis served for decades on the front lines of the battlefield when it came to obtaining equality for blacks in America. Alongside other leaders of the Civil Rights Movement (such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., A. Philip Randolph, and others) Lewis was at the forefront of some of the most historic protests for social reform of all time.
He endured imprisonment, mental torture, and physical brutality so that blacks could one day use their vote, as well as other rights that they have today.
John Lewis is a name that is synonymous with the term freedom fighter. In 1965, he formed an alliance with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to organize a voting rights march in Selma, Alabama. This non-violent march of prayer and peace was met with sheer savagery, which was instigated by white state police officers in Alabama.
On Bloody Sunday, an infamous day in American history, Lewis was one of the many peaceful protesters who were brutally beaten by Georgia State Troopers as they crossed the historic Edmund Pettus Bridge. Lewis himself suffered a severe fracture to his skull and was drenched in blood as he was admitted to a hospital on March 7, 1965.
“Too many people struggled, suffered, and died to make it possible for every American to exercise their right to vote,” Lewis was famously quoted as saying.
The list of milestone moments that Lewis was a critical part of during his lifelong fight for black civil rights is indeed a long list to make. The true breadth and width of his deeds are truly immeasurable. Time after time, Lewis exercised courage in the face of insurmountable odds. For many decades, he risked his life, freedom, and personal safety more times than any human being could imagine.
Though a soldier dies once, the legacy of bravery and honor that Lewis exhumed for many decades will live forever. May God rest his soul.