John Lewis, a lion of the civil rights movement whose bloody beating by Alabama state troopers in 1965 helped galvanize opposition to racial segregation, and who went on to a long and celebrated career in Congress, died. He was 80.
Lewis’ death was confirmed by a House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in a statement Friday night.
“Today, America mourns the loss of one of the greatest heroes of American history: Congressman John Lewis, the Conscience of the Congress,” Pelosi said in a statement.
“John Lewis was a titan of the civil rights movement whose goodness, faith and bravery transformed our nation – from the determination with which he met discrimination at lunch counters and on Freedom Rides, to the courage he showed as a young man facing down violence and death on Edmund Pettus Bridge, to the moral leadership he brought to the Congress for more than 30 years.”
“In the Congress, John Lewis was revered and beloved on both sides of the aisle and both sides of the Capitol. All of us were humbled to call Congressman Lewis a colleague, and are heartbroken by his passing. May his memory be an inspiration that moves us all to, in the face of injustice, make ‘good trouble, necessary trouble.”
Lewis was the last survivor of the Big Six civil rights activists, led by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
He was best known for leading 600 protesters in the 1965 Bloody Sunday march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama.
Lewis was knocked to the ground and beaten by state troopers.
Televised images forced the country’s attention on racial oppression.
A Democrat from Atlanta, he won his U.S. House seat in 1986.
“John Lewis was a hero and an icon, and will be missed dearly. His legacy will live on,” Rep. Dan Crenshaw tweeted.
“Tonight, the world grieves for the great John Lewis,” Senator Ted Cruz said.
Lewis’ career in public service spanned for nearly 60 years. Our thoughts are with his family.