Congressman John Lewis, a civil rights icon who helped organize the 1963 March on Washington and served in Congress for decades, died Friday, July 17, 2020, after a battle with pancreatic cancer. Lewis was 80 years old.
Lewis “dedicated his entire life to non-violent activism and was an outspoken advocate in the struggle for equal justice in America,” his family said in a statement.
Wounded Freedom Riders in Alabama
In 1961, Lewis was just 21 years old when he joined the Freedom Riders, who rode public transportation to Alabama in an effort to integrate bus travel. He was beaten and arrested multiple times due to his activism.
In this photo, two blood-splattered Freedom Riders, John Lewis (left) and James Zwerg (right), stand together after being attacked and beaten by pro-segregationists in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1961.
Arrest in Jackson
This is a mug shot of John Lewis following his arrest in Jackson, Mississippi, for using a restroom reserved for “white” people during the Freedom Ride demonstration against racial segregation, on May 24, 1961.
Lewis was elected chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in 1963.
In this picture, Lewis as chairman, explains protective measures to two White students participating in the civil rights movement in Cambridge, Maryland, on July 18, 1963.
Leaders at the March on Washington
Lewis was a friend of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. On August 28, 1963, civil rights leaders marched in Washington, D.C., and King gave his iconic “I Have a Dream” speech.
Among those pictured in this image are, front row from left, John Lewis, Matthew Ahman, Floyd B. McKissick, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Reverend Eugene Carson Blake, Cleveland Robinson and Rabbi Joachim Prinz.
John Lewis in 1963
In this image, John Lewis addresses a crowd at the 1963 March on Washington.
March on Washington leaders meet President John F. Kennedy
President John F. Kennedy meets with the leaders of the March On Washington on August 28, 1963, at the White House. L-R: Secretary of Labor Willard Wirtz, Floyd McKissick, Matthew Ahmann, Whitney Young, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., John Lewis, Rabbi Joachim Prinz, Rev. Eugene Carson Blake, A. Philip Randolph, President Kennedy, Vice President Johnson, Walter Ruether, Roy Wilkins.
“The last time I saw President Kennedy alive was the day of the March on Washington,” Lewis wrote in 2013. “He invited all the speakers to the White House after the march was over. I can still see him standing in the door of the Oval House beaming, waiting to greet us. He shook the hand of each person saying, ‘You did a good job.You did a good job.’ And when he got to Dr. King he said, ‘And you had a dream.'”
John Lewis addresses President Lyndon B. Johnson
John Lewis speaks during a news conference in Jackson, Mississippi, on June 23, 1964. He called on President Lyndon B. Johnson to protect summer volunteers in Mississippi as civil rights workers faced arrests and violence.
Selma civil rights march in 1965
State and local police attacked 600 civil rights marchers in Selma, Alabama, on March 7, 1965, known as “Bloody Sunday.” John Lewis, who led the march as the chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (in the foreground) was beaten by a state trooper. His skull was fractured.
Selma march 1965
Civil rights demonstrators, led by Dr Martin Luther King (5th R), civil rights activist Ralph Abernathy (5th L), John Lewis (3rd L) and other civil and religious leaders, made their way from Selma to Montgomery on March 22, 1965, in Alabama.
The Selma-to-Montgomery marches represented the political and emotional peak of the modern civil rights movement. The events of “Bloody Sunday” helped lead Congress to pass the Voting Rights Act, and President Johnson signed it into law on August 6, 1965.
In this photo, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., second from right, speaks at a news conference next to John Lewis, to his left, in Baltimore on April 2, 1965, following historic civil rights marches.
Elected to Congress
John Lewis was first elected to Congress in 1986, representing Georgia’s 5th Congressional district, which includes the Martin Luther King Jr. National Park and the Ebenezer Baptist Church, the church where King served as pastor. In this September 3, 1986 photo, Lewis and his wife, Lillian, celebrate his victory with supporters.
Presidential Medal of Freedom
Rep. John Lewis was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the country’s highest civilian honor, by President Barack Obama on February 15, 2011.
Arrest in 2013
Rep. John Lewis was arrested by U.S. Capitol Police after blocking First Street NW in front of the U.S. Capitol with fellow supporters of immigration reform on October 8, 2013, in Washington, D.C.
At least eight Democratic members of the House were arrested that day, along with about 200 others. The massive rally sought to push Republicans to hold a vote on a stalled immigration reform bill.
“Bloody Sunday” anniversary march
President Barack Obama holds Rep. John Lewis’ hand during a march with thousands of people across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, on March 7, 2015, the 50th anniversary of “Bloody Sunday.”
Smithsonian African American museum
Rep. John Lewis and President Barack Obama embrace at the dedication ceremony for the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington on September 24, 2016.
Referred to as the godfather of the museum, Lewis first introduced a bill for the creation of a museum dedicated to the African American experience in 1988. It was rejected. Lewis continued introducing a bill for nearly 15 years, but continually faced obstruction, primarily from conservative Sen. Jesse Helms. President George W. Bush signed the bill to establish the museum in 2003.
John Lewis nominates Hillary Clinton
Rep. John Lewis seconds the nomination of Hillary Clinton as President of the United States during the second day of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia on July 26, 2016.
Black Lives Matter Plaza
Rep. John Lewis visits Black Lives Matter Plaza, in front of the White House, in Washington, D.C., on June 7, 2020. He called the mural a “powerful work of art.”