Iconic civil rights activist and congressman John Lewis dies aged 80

Iconic civil rights activist and congressman John Lewis dies aged 80
Rep John Lewis announced he had stage 4 cancer in December 2019. Source: Getty Images
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Daily US Times: Legendary civil rights icon and US congressman John Lewis dies at the age of 80.

Lewis was one of the “Big Six” civil rights leaders, which included Martin Luther King Jr, and helped organise the historic 1963 March on Washington.

As a congressman, Mr Lewis was a Georgia Democrat, and represented an area which covered most of the state’s capital Atlanta.

Lewis announced in December 2019 that he had been diagnosed with Stage 4 pancreatic cancer.

At that time, he said in a statement: “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.”

Lewis was one of the founders of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) during the civil rights movement, and then became its chairman from 1963 to 1966.

He co-organised and spoke at the March on Washington for freedom and Jobs, the rally at which Dr King delivered his historic I Have a Dream speech.

Lewis was the last surviving speaker from that historic march.

John Lewis addressing the crowd at the historic March on Washington in 1963. Source: Getty Images

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi confirmed his death in a statement posted on her website and on social media.

The top Democrat wrote that Lewis “was a titan of the civil rights movement whose goodness, faith and bravery transformed our nation”, and that as a congressman he was “revered and beloved on both sides of the aisle and both sides of the Capitol”.

She said: “Every day of John Lewis’s life was dedicated to bringing freedom and justice to all.”

“As he declared 57 years ago during the March on Washington, standing in the shadow of the Lincoln Memorial: ‘Our minds, souls, and hearts cannot rest until freedom and justice exist for all the people,”’ her statement added.

Civil rights group the NAACP tweeted that they were “deeply saddened”.

The organisation said Lewis’s life-long mission for justice, equality and freedom left a permanent impression on our nation and world.

“The NAACP extends our sincerest condolences to his family, and we send prayers of comfort and strength to all.”

Former President Barack Obama said in a statement that he had spoken with John Lewis after a virtual town hall with a group of activists following the death of George Floyd.

Mr Obama said Lewis could not have been prouder of their efforts – “a new generation standing up for freedom and equality”.

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