John Lewis, a civil rights activist 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, has died. He was 80.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi confirmed Lewis’s passing late Friday night, calling him “one of the greatest heroes of American history.”
“All of us were humbled to call Congressman Lewis a colleague and are heartbroken by his passing,” Pelosi said. “May his memory be an inspiration that moves us all to, in the face of injustice, make ‘good trouble, necessary trouble.’”
The condolences for Lewis were bipartisan. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Lewis was “a pioneering civil rights leader who put his life on the line to fight racism, promote equal rights and bring our nation into greater alignment with its founding principles. ”
Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., under his quote in the Civil Rights Room in the Nashville Public Library. (Mark Humphrey/AP)
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.
The announcement of his death came just hours after the passing of the
Rev. C.T. Vivian, another civil rights leader who died early Friday at 95.
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 movement. He was best known for leading some 600 protesters in the Bloody Sunday march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma.
Read more of this story by the Associated Press >>> The Activist Freedom Riders. Front row, from left: Allen Cason Jr. , Frederick Leonard, Etta Simpson, William B. Mitchell, Ruby D. Smith, John Lewis, Charles Butler, second row, from left: Joseph Carter, Lucretia Collins, Patricia Jenkins, Carl Bush, Catherine Burks, Paul E. Brooks. Stranding, from left: Clarence Wright, Bernard La Fayette Jr., Rudolph Graham, William Harbour. In the basement of Reverend Ralph Abernathy's Church. Montgomery, Alabama, May 1961. (Photo: Paul Schultzer/Time Life Pictures/Getty Images) Two blood-splattered Freedom Riders, John Lewis (left) and James Zwerg (right) stand together after being attacked and beaten by pro-segregationists in Montgomery, Ala., on May 6, 1961. (Photo: Bettmann Archive/Getty Images) Freedom Rider John Lewis with a bandaged head, relaxing and regrouping with fellow Freedom Riders in a safe house in Montgomery, Ala., during the Freedom Rider crisis in May of 1961. (Photo: Paul Schutzer/Time Life Pictures/Getty Images) Civil rights leaders hold a news conference in Montgomery, Ala., and announce that the Freedom Rides will continue, May 23, 1961. In the foreground is John Lewis, one of the riders who was beaten. Others, left to right: James Farmer, Rev. Ralph Abernathy and Rev. Martin Luther King. Lewis wears bandage on head. (Photo: AP) John Lewis, center, national chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee explains protective measures to two white students participating in the civil rights movement in Cambridge, Md., July 18, 1963. Lewis, from the Atlanta, Ga., office of the student group, was there to help in the integrationist struggle. On left is Gretchen Schwarz of Philadelphia, while Carol Rogoff of Brooklyn, N.Y., also participates. (Photo: William A. Smith/AP) John Lewis, Chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, speaking at the Lincoln Memorial to participants in the March on Washington on August 28, 1963. (Photo: Bettmann Archive/Getty Images) Civil Rights activist (and future politician) John Lewis, chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), in an office, New York, 1964. He reads a document titled "We Shall Overcome; the Authorized Record of the March on Washington Produced by the Council for United Civil Rights Leadership." (Photo: Robert Elfstrom/Villon Films/Getty Images) Civil Rights leaders, including future Congressman John Lewis (third left) and Gloria Richardson (third right), chair of the Cambridge Non-Violent Action Committee, links hands with others as they march in protest of a scheduled speech by pro-segregationist Alabama Gov. George Wallace in Cambridge, Md., May 1964. (Photo: Francis Miller/The LIFE Picture Collection via Getty Images) Martin Luther King Jr., (with hat) accompanied by his wife Coretta (right) and John Lewis (far right), leads a march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, March 7, 1965. (Photo: AP) State troopers swing billy clubs to break up a civil rights voting march in Selma, Ala., March 7, 1965. John Lewis, chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (in the foreground) is being beaten by a state trooper. Lewis, a future U.S. Congressman, sustained a fractured skull. (Photo: AP) Dr. Martin Luther King (center) leads thousands of civil rights marchers out on the last leg of their Selma-to-Montgomery march on March 25, 1965. Others identifiable in front row include: John Lewis, (2nd from left) of SNCC; King's aide, Reverend Ralph Abernathy (3rd from left); Dr. Ralph Bunche (5th from left, looking to side); Mrs. King (next to King); and Rev. Hosea Williams (carrying little girl, right). (Photo: Bettman Archive/Getty Images) Civil rights activists John Lewis and James Farmer sit with President Lyndon Baines Johnson at the White House. (Photo: Okamoto/Interim Archives/Getty Images) The Politician Atlanta City Councilman John Lewis holds the March 1965 issue of Life Magazine in his office in Atlanta, Ga., Aug. 7, 1986. The cover photo shows Lewis leading the first Selma, Ala., civil rights march with Hosea Williams. Lewis, an Alabama sharecropper's son, suffered brutal beatings and humiliating sentences in the five years preceding the Voting Rights Act. (Photo: Ric Feld/AP) State Sen. Julian Bond greets Atlanta City Councilman John Lewis, right, during an election rally in downtown Atlanta, Monday, August 11, 1986 as former state Rep. Bobby Hill, center, looks on. Bond and Lewis are running for the U.S. 5th Congressional District seat vacated by Wyche Fowler, and Hill is running for Lt. Governor. (Photo: Ric Feld/AP) City Councilman John Lewis is surrounded by happy campaign supporters while he talks to the press after an unexpected victory over state Sen. Julian Bond in the Democratic runoff for the 5th Congressional District seat late on Sept. 2, 1986. Underdog Lewis trailed throughout the sometimes bitter primary against Bond, his longtime friend and civil rights ally. (Photo: Bettmann Archive/Getty Images) Civil rights figures lead marchers across the Edmund Pettus Bridge during the re-creation of the 1965 Selma to Montgomery march on March 4, 1990. From left are Hosea Williams of Atlanta, Georgia Congressman John Lewis, Rev. Jesse Jackson, Evelyn Lowery, SCLC President Joseph Lowery and Coretta Scott King. (Photo: Jamie Sturtevant/AP) Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., in August 1991. (Photo: Laura Patterson/CQ Roll Call via Getty Images) Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., reflects with Democratic presidential candidate Bill Clinton during a meeting of the Congressional Black Caucus in Capitol Hill on July 1, 1992. (Doug Mills/AP) President Gerald Ford, left, and Congressman John Lewis, right, embrace after receiving Profiles in Courage awards at the JFK Library on May 21, 2001. Congressman John Lewis was cited for lifetime achievement. (Photo: Joanne Rathe/The Boston Globe via Getty Images) Congressional Black Caucus members, including Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., right, were arrested after a news conference regarding Darfur on May 16, 2006, at the Sudanese Embassy in Washington. They were arrested by Secret Service Uniform Division officers for blocking the entrance of the embassy. (Photo: Lauren Victoria Burke/AP) Rev. Jesse Jackson, top center, and Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., leaning on shovel, become emotional as Amb. Andrew Young, top right, speaks about the significance of the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., during the breaking ground for the Martin Luther King Memorial on the National Mall in Washington Monday Nov. 13, 2006. Consoling Rep. Lewis are former Labor Secretary Alexis Herman, center, and fashion designer Tommy Hilfiger, second from left. At lower right, Martin Luther King Jr.'s sister Christine King Farris. (Photo: Lauren Victoria Burke/AP) Democratic presidential candidates Barack Obama, far left, and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, take part in the traditional walk across the Edmund Pettus Bridge to commemorate the 42nd anniversary of the 1965 Selma to Montgomery March on March 4, 2007. Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., is second from right. (Photo: Rob Carr/AP) Rep. John Lewis and The Dalai Lama during a public speech in Centennial Olympic Park in Atlanta on Oct.22, 2007. (Photo: John Amis/AP) Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., left, is arrested during a protest at the Sudanese Embassy against the actions of the Sudanese government in Darfur on Monday, April 27, 2009, in Washington. Lewis as well as other humanitarian leaders and lawmakers, were led away in handcuffs Monday after crossing a police line. (Photo: Evan Vucci/AP) Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., describes the events of Bloody Sunday during a visit to the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala., Sunday, March 7, 2010. (Photo: Dave Martin/AP) Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., walks with, from left. Reps. Steny Hoyer, D-Md, John Lewis, D-Ga., Andre Carson, D-Ind., 2nd right, and John Larson, D-Conn., before Congress is set to vote on health care reform legislation on March 21, 2010 on Capitol Hill in Washington. (Photo: Lauren Victoria Burke/AP) President Barack Obama presents a 2010 Presidential Medal of Freedom to Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., on Feb. 15, 2011, during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House. (AP) President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama applaud as Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., speaks at the groundbreaking for the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington on Feb. 22, 2012. (Photo: Charles Dharapak/AP) Lawmakers including House Republican Whip Kevin McCarthy, left, of California, House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md, (2nd from left), and U.S. Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., center, place a wreath on the Civil Rights Memorial in Montgomery, Ala., Saturday, March 3, 2012. (Photo: Dave Martin/AP) Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., center, talks with those gathered on the historic Edmund Pettus Bridge during the 19th annual reenactment of the Bloody Sunday civil rights march across the bridge in Selma, Ala. on Sunday, March 4, 2012, 47 years after the historic march that led to the Voting Rights Act. (Photo: Kevin Glackmeyer/AP) Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., points to where he and others were beaten 48 years ago when they tried to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge during a civil rights march in Selma, Ala., Sunday, March 3, 2013. At rear is Vice President Joe Biden. At left is U/S. Rep. Terri Sewell, D-Ala., Jesse Jackson is second from left. (Photo: Dave Martin/AP) Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., left, with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of Calif., acknowledges the applause during a ceremony on Capitol Hill in Washington on July 31, 2013, in observance of the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. (Photo: Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP) Rev. Al Sharpton (2nd R) links arms with Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) next to Martin Luther King III (R) as they begin to march during the 50th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington August 24, 2013. (Photo: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters) Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., arrives to speak at a rally to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on Aug. 24, 2013, in Washington. (Photo: Carolyn Kaster/AP) Representaive John Lewis (D-GA) is arrested on Capitol Hill in an act of civil disobedience to encourage support of immigration reform, October 8, 2013 on The National Mall in Washington DC as thousands rallied in support of immigration reform on the National Mall in Washington DC. The demonstrators called on Congress to adopt an immigration law that would allow the nation's 12 million undocumented immigrants the ability to apply for US citizenship. (Photo: Chris Kleponis/AFP via Getty Images) Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., holds the new installment of his award-winning graphic novel on civil rights and nonviolent protest, on Capitol Hill in Washington on Jan. 15, 2015. A comic book is about Martin Luther King Jr. helped bring John Lewis into the civil rights movement. The longtime Democratic congressman from Georgia now hopes that graphic novels about his life and what his contemporaries endured to overcome racism will guide today's protesters in search of justice. (Photo: J. Scott Applewhite/AP) President Barack Obama embraces Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., after Lewis introduced the president with an emotional speech by the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala., on the 50th anniversary of "Bloody Sunday," a landmark event of the civil rights movement, Saturday, March 7, 2015. (Phhoto: Jacquelyn Martin/AP) President Barack Obama, center, holds hands with Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., left, and Amelia Boynton Robinson, right, who were both beaten during "Bloody Sunday," as they walk across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala., for the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday" on March 7, 2015. (Photo: Jacquelyn Martin/AP) Rep. John Lewis speaks during a get-out-the-caucus event for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton at the Mountain Shadows Community Center on February 14, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo: Ethan Miller/Getty Images) Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., holds a copy of the Constitution as he talks about appointing another judge to the Supreme Court during a March 3, 2016, news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington. (Photo: Susan Walsh/AP) A photo tweeted from the floor of the U.S. House by Rep. Donna Edwards (R) shows Democratic members of the U.S. House of Representatives, including herself and Rep. John Lewis (L) staging a sit-in on the House floor "to demand action on common sense gun legislation" on Capitol Hill in Washington on June 22, 2016. (Photo: Rep. Donna Edwards/Handout via Reuters) Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., center, joined by, from left, House Assistant Minority Leader James Clyburn of S.C., Rep. Joseph Crowley, D-N.Y., House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of Calif., and Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington on June 23, 2016, after House Democra/AP) Civil right leader Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., center, wipes his eyes as members of the Congressional Black Caucus make emotional statements condemning the slayings of police officers in Dallas last night, and the fatal police shootings of black men in Louisiana and Minnesota earlier in the week, during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington on July 8, 2016. From left are: Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., Rep. Marcia L. Fudge, D-Ohio, Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-Fla., and Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas. (Photo: J. Scott Applewhite/AP) Rep. John Lewis, right, D-Ga., reacts after being presented with the Liberty Medal for his dedication to civil rights from National Constitution Center CEO Jeffrey Rosen during a ceremony on Sept. 19, 2016, in Philadelphia. The honor is given annually to an individual who displays courage and conviction while striving to secure liberty for people worldwide. (Photo: Matt Slocum/AP) Rep. John Lewis reaches out to shake the hands of well-wishers as he arrives at the Women's March on Saturday, Jan. 21, 2017, in Atlanta. (Photo: Ron Harris/AP) Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., watches a video of himself before throwing out the ceremonial first pitch for Jackie Robinson Day before a baseball game between the Washington Nationals and the Colorado Rockies at Nationals Park on April 15, 2018, in Washington. (Photo: Andrew Harnik/AP) Rep. John Lewis walks in a precession during Harvard University commencement exercises on May 24, 2018, in Cambridge, Mass. (Photo: Michael Dwyer/AP) House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., left, poses during a ceremonial swearing-in with Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., right, on Capitol Hill on Jan. 3, 2019 in Washington during the opening session of the 116th Congress.. (Photo: Alex Brandon/AP) Amandla Stenberg, left, and Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga, introduce "Green Book" at the Oscars on Feb. 24, 2019, at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. (Photo: Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP) Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., is seen near the statue of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in the Capitol Rotunda before a memorial service for the late Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., in Statuary Hall on Thursday, October 24, 2019. (Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images), Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., and other members of the Congressional Black Caucus line up as they wait to enter as a group to attend the memorial services for Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., at the U.S. Capitol in Washington on Oct. 24, 2019. (Photo: Pablo Martinez Monsivais, pool/AP) Civil rights leader Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., flanked by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., left, and Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., speaks at an event with House Democrats before passing the Voting Rights Advancement Act to eliminate potential state and local voter suppression laws, at the Capitol in Washington on Dec. 6, 2019. (Photo: J. Scott Applewhite/AP) Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., speaks as the House of Representatives debates the articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump at the Capitol in Washington on Dec. 18, 2019. (Photo: House Television via AP) John Lewis looks over a section of 16th Street that's been renamed Black Lives Matter Plaza in Washington on June 7, 2020. (Khalid Naji-Allah/Executive Office of the Mayor via AP) See more news-related photo galleries and follow us on Yahoo News Photo Twitter . View comments