Longtime US Congressman, John Robert Lewis has died after a six-month battle with cancer. He was 80.
“It is with inconsolable grief and enduring sadness that we announce the passing of U.S. Rep. John Lewis,” his family said in a statement. “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. He was a stalwart champion in the on-going struggle to demand respect for the dignity and worth of every human being. He dedicated his entire life to non-violent activism and was an outspoken advocate in the struggle for equal justice in America. He will be deeply missed.”
Lewis died on the same day as civil rights leader the Rev. Cordy Tindell “C.T.” Vivian who was 95. A follower and colleague of Martin Luther King Jr., he participated in lunch counter sit-ins, joined the Freedom Riders in challenging segregated buses and — at the age of 23 — was a keynote speaker at the historic 1963 March on Washington.
“Sometimes when I look back and think about it, how did we do what we did? How did we succeed? We didn’t have a website. We didn’t have a cellular telephone,” Lewis has said of the civil rights movement.”
“But I felt when we were sitting in at those lunch counter stools, or going on the Freedom Ride, or marching from Selma to Montgomery, there was a power and a force. God Almighty was there with us.”
Trump reacted to Lewis’ death Saturday afternoon, saying in a tweet, “Saddened to hear the news of civil rights hero John Lewis passing. Melania and I send our prayers to he and his family.” Earlier Saturday, Trump ordered that flags at the White House and on federal buildings be lowered to half-staff throughout Saturday to honor Lewis.
Lewis also believed in forgiveness.He once described an incident when, as a young man, he was beaten bloody by members of the Ku Klux Klan after attempting to enter a “white waiting room.””Many years later, in February of ’09, one of the men that had beaten us came to my Capitol Hill office — he was in his 70’s, with his son in his 40’s — and he said, ‘Mr. Lewis, I am one of the people who beat you and your seat mate'” on a bus, Lewis said, adding the man said he had been in the KKK. “He said, ‘I want to apologize. Will you accept my apology?'”
After accepting his apology and hugging the father and son, the three cried together, Lewis remembered.”It is the power in the way of peace, the way of love,” Lewis said. “We must never, ever hate. The way of love is a better way.”