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Rep. John Lewis Passes Away At 80 Years Old

Representative John Lewis, known as a lion of the civil rights movement and more recently known as the conscience of Congress has passed away at the age of 80.

Lewis’s announcement in late December 2019 that he had been diagnosed with advanced pancreatic cancer — “I have never faced a fight quite like the one I have now,” he said — inspired tributes from both sides of the aisle, and an unstated accord that the likely passing of this Atlanta Democrat would represent the end of an era.

Lewis was the youngest and last survivor of the Big Six civil rights activists, a group led by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. that had the greatest impact on the Civil Rights Movement. He was best known for leading some 600 protesters in the Bloody Sunday march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma and whose bloody beating by Alabama state troopers in 1965 helped galvanize opposition to racial segregation.

At age 25 — walking at the head of the march with his hands tucked in the pockets of his tan overcoat — Lewis was knocked to the ground and beaten by police. His skull was fractured, and nationally televised images of the brutality forced the country’s attention on racial oppression in the South.


Within days, King led more marches in the state, and President Lyndon Johnson soon was pressing Congress to pass the Voting Rights Act. The bill became law later that year, removing barriers that had barred Blacks from voting.

Lewis joined King and four other civil rights leaders in organizing the 1963 March on Washington. He spoke to the vast crowd just before King delivered his epochal “I Have a Dream” speech.

Lewis’ wife of four decades, Lillian Miles, died in 2012. They had one son, John Miles Lewis.


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