Former president Barack Obama, lawmakers, and the entire country are currently mourning the death of civil rights icon John Lewis. The Georgia congressman died Friday, July 19, at the age of 80 after a six-month battle with stage IV pancreatic cancer, according to CNN.
The lawmaker was a survivor of Alabama’s Bloody Sunday massacre in 1965 and one of the last living members of the "Big Six" leaders of the civil rights movement. In his life, he joined the Freedom Riders in challenging segregated buses across the South and was a close friend and colleague of the late Martin Luther King Jr.
Lewis was elected to Congress in 1986 and spent more than three decades fighting for equality, empowering youth and minority communities, and encouraging activism in America. In 2011 Lewis was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Barack Obama, America's first Black president.
Over the years Obama has credited Lewis for inspiring him to go into politics. In fact, on his Inauguration Day in 2009, Obama signed a message to the congressman, "Because of you, John."
In a poignant statement released following Lewis's death, Obama honored the congressman's life's work and paid tribute to his legacy which will "continue, even in his passing, to serve as a beacon in that long journey toward a more perfect union."
"He loved this country so much that he risked his life and his blood so that it might live up to its promise," Obama wrote. "And through the decades, he not only gave all of himself to the cause of freedom and justice, but inspired generations that followed to try to live up to his example."
“In so many ways, John’s life was exceptional," the statement continued. ”But he never believed that what he did was more than any citizen of this country might do. He believed that in all of us there exists the capacity for great courage, a longing to do what’s right, a willingness to love all people, and to extend to them their God-given rights to dignity and respect. And it’s because he saw the best in all of us that he will continue, even in his passing, to serve as a beacon in that long journey toward a more perfect union."
Obama concluded his tribute with a call to action for the nation. “Not many of us get to live to see our own legacy play out in such a meaningful, remarkable way. John Lewis did,” he wrote. "And thanks to him, we now all have our marching orders—to keep believing in the possibility of remaking this country we love until it lives up to its full promise."
You can read Obama's full statement here.
More tributes to Lewis have been pouring in from Lewis's colleagues, fellow lawmakers, and public figures. Below are the remarks from presidential candidate Joe Biden, Stacey Abrams, Senator Elizabeth Warren, and more.
RIP, John Lewis, a true hero.
Originally Appeared on Glamour