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US Civil rights legend John Lewis dead at 80

08:15  18 july  2020
08:15  18 july  2020 Source:   cnn.com

John Lewis, civil rights icon and longtime congressman, dies

  John Lewis, civil rights icon and longtime congressman, dies After years of putting his body and his freedom on the line as an activist, he spent more than three decades in Congress.In December 2019, he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

John Robert Lewis, the son of sharecroppers who survived a brutal beating by police during a landmark 1965 march in Selma, Alabama, to become a towering figure of the civil rights movement and a longtime US congressman, has died after a six-month battle with cancer. He was 80.

John Lewis wearing a suit and tie talking on a cell phone: WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 24: Civil Rights icon Congressman John Lewis (D-GA) prepares to pay his respects to U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) who lies in state within Statuary Hall during a memorial ceremony on Capitol Hill on October 24, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Melina Mara-Pool/Getty Images) © Melina Mara/Pool/Getty Images WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 24: Civil Rights icon Congressman John Lewis (D-GA) prepares to pay his respects to U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) who lies in state within Statuary Hall during a memorial ceremony on Capitol Hill on October 24, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Melina Mara-Pool/Getty Images)

"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."

Remembering John Lewis, rights icon and `American hero'

  Remembering John Lewis, rights icon and `American hero' WASHINGTON (AP) — People paid great heed to John Lewis for much of his life in the civil rights movement. But at the very beginning — when he was just a kid wanting to be a minister someday — his audience didn’t care much for what he had to say. A son of Alabama sharecroppers, the young Lewis first preached moral righteousness to his family’s chickens. His place in the vanguard of the 1960s campaign for Black equality had its roots in that hardscrabble Alabama farm and all those clucks.

Lewis died on the same day as civil rights leader the Rev. Cordy Tindell "C.T." Vivian, who was 95. The dual deaths of the civil rights icons come as the nation is still grappling with racial upheaval in the wake of the death of George Floyd and the subsequent Black Lives Matter protests that have swept the nation.

It's another heartbreak in a year filled with them, as America mourns the deaths of nearly 140,000 Americans from Covid-19 and struggles to bring the virus under control.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced his death in a statement.

"Today, America mourns the loss of one of the greatest heroes of American history: Congressman John Lewis, the Conscience of the Congress," the California Democrat said.

'We have lost a giant': Reaction to death of Congressman John Lewis

  'We have lost a giant': Reaction to death of Congressman John Lewis House Speaker Nancy Pelosi released a statement Friday, saying, “Today, America mourns the loss of one of the greatest heroes of American history."Lewis, an organizer of the March on Washington in 1963 along with Martin Luther King Jr., had been suffering from Stage IV pancreatic cancer since December. The congressman was 80, and also known as the "conscience of the Congress".

Lewis had vowed to fight the disease after announcing in late December 2019 that he had been diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer, which was discovered as a result of a routine medical visit and subsequent testing.

"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," he said in a statement at the time.

Lewis, a Democrat who served as the US representative for Georgia's 5th congressional district for more than three decades, was widely seen as a moral conscience of Congress because of his decades-long embodiment of nonviolent fight for civil rights. His passionate oratory was backed by a long record of action that included, by his count, more than 40 arrests while demonstrating against racial and social injustice.

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.

C.T. Vivian was a giant figure in the civil rights movement: 5 things you may not have known about him

  C.T. Vivian was a giant figure in the civil rights movement: 5 things you may not have known about him C.T. Vivian led his first sit-in demonstration in 1947 in Peoria, Illinois. After that, his civil rights career stretched for more than six decades.Vivian was a monumental figure in the civil rights movement, with a stretch of advocating for racial equality for more than six decades to his first sit-in demonstrations in the 1940s in Peoria, Illinois. He met King soon after the budding civil rights leader’s victory in the 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott.

"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."

Lewis has said King inspired his activism. Angered by the unfairness of the Jim Crow South, he launched what he called "good trouble" with organized protests and sit-ins. In the early 1960s, he was a Freedom Rider, challenging segregation at interstate bus terminals across the South and in the nation's capital.

"We do not want our freedom gradual; we want to be free now," he said at the time.

At age 25, Lewis helped lead a march for voting rights on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, where he and other marchers were met by heavily armed state and local police who attacked them with clubs, fracturing Lewis' skull. Images from that "Bloody Sunday" shocked the nation and galvanized support for the Voting Rights Act of 1965, signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson.

Robert E. Lee high school in Virginia gets a name change: It's now John R. Lewis

  Robert E. Lee high school in Virginia gets a name change: It's now John R. Lewis A Virginia boardmember had proposed a resolution to remove the Confederate general's name from the school in February. Start the day smarter. Get all the news you need in your inbox each morning. Several board members clapped and cheered when the unanimous vote was announced. “The name Robert E. Lee is forever connected to the Confederacy, and Confederate values are ones that do not align with our community,” Kaufax said in a news release. “I believe that John Lewis’ extraordinary life and advocacy for racial justice will serve as an inspiration to our students and community for generations to come.

"I gave a little blood on that bridge," he said years later. "I thought I was going to die. I thought I saw death."

Despite the attack and other beatings, Lewis never lost his activist spirit, taking it from protests to politics. He was elected to the Atlanta city council in 1981, then to Congress six years later.

Once in Washington, he focused on fighting against poverty and helping younger generations by improving education and health care. He also co-wrote a series of graphic novels about the civil rights movement, which won him a National Book Award.

Born on a Troy, Alabama, cotton farm into a segregated America on February 21, 1940, Lewis lived to see an African American elected president, a moment he said he never thought would come despite his decades long fight for equality.

He described attending President Barack Obama's 2009 inauguration as an "out-of-body" experience.

"When we were organizing voter-registration drives, going on the Freedom Rides, sitting in, coming here to Washington for the first time, getting arrested, going to jail, being beaten, I never thought — I never dreamed — of the possibility that an African-American would one day be elected president of the United States," he said at the time.

In 2011, after more than 50 years on the front lines of the civil rights movement, Lewis received the nation's highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, placed round his neck by America's first black president.

In Selma, tributes to Rep. John Lewis and calls to protect his voting rights legacy

  In Selma, tributes to Rep. John Lewis and calls to protect his voting rights legacy Rep. John Lewis was honored in a church that became a landmark of the movement the civil rights hero was so deeply tied to.Once, when the family visited Rep. John Lewis in his congressional office, the congressman took the Pittmans' son down to the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Ahead of the inauguration of Donald Trump in 2017, Lewis said he did not consider him to be a "legitimate" president, an astonishing rebuke by a sitting member of Congress toward an incoming president.

"I think the Russians participated in helping this man get elected. And they helped destroy the candidacy of Hillary Clinton," Lewis said.

Trump fired back, calling Lewis "all talk" and "no action" and saying he should focus more on "fixing and helping" his district rather than "complaining" about Russia.

Lewis skipped Trump's inauguration.

"I've said to students, 'When you see something that is not right, not fair, not just, you have a moral obligation to do something, to say something,'" Lewis said in spring 2018. "And Dr. King inspired us to do just that."

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."

This story has been updated with additional developments Saturday morning

John Lewis: The `conscience of Congress' returns to the Capitol one last time .
John Lewis will lay in state in the Capitol rotunda Monday and Tuesday, his casket resting on the same wooden platform used for Abraham Lincoln.Those were the words embroidered into the coat that Abraham Lincoln was wearing the night he was assassinated by a Confederate sympathizer.

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