NBCSL Mourns the Passing of Congressman John R. Lewis
Washington, DC: The National Black Caucus of State Legislators (NBCSL) is saddened by the news of the passing of Congressman John Robert Lewis [GA]. Chairman of the Subcommittee on Oversight for the Congressional Ways and Means Committee, and extends our heartfelt condolences to his son, John Miles. We are grateful that the Lewis family shared this champion of social justice and racial equality with the world.
Lewis, a native of Troy, Alabama served in the United States House of Representatives for Georgia’s 5th congressional district from 1987 until his recent death, was widely seen as a moral conscience of Congress because of his decades-long embodiment of nonviolent fight for civil rights.
John R Lewis began community organizing against racial injustice as a student in Tennessee while attending the American Baptist Theological Seminary and Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee. Although Lewis was arrested and jailed numerous times as college student his efforts lead to the desegregation of lunch counters in downtown Nashville. Subsequently, Lewis became one of America’s most fearless opponents of Jim Crow laws and racial oppression noted as an Original Freedom Rider, organizer of the March on Selma, Alabama for voting rights, as well as one of the chief organizers for the March on Washington, D.C. for Jobs and Freedom in 1963.
“He leaves a legacy of notable political and civil rights victories and a long list of legislative milestones. His impact on our nation and the political enfranchisement of African Americans will never be forgotten, said the Honorable Gilda Cobb-Hunter, South Carolina State Representative and President of NBCSL.
A follower and colleague of Martin Luther King Jr., Congressman Lewis participated in lunch counter sit-ins, joined the Freedom Riders in challenging segregated buses and — at the age of 23 — was a keynote speaker at the historic 1963 March on Washington.
“Sometimes when I look back and think about it, how did we do what we did? How did we succeed? We didn’t have a website. We didn’t have a cellular telephone,” Lewis said regarding the civil rights movement. “But I felt when we were sitting in at those lunch counter stools, or going on the Freedom Ride, or marching from Selma to Montgomery, there was a power and a force. God Almighty was there with us.”
NBCSL President Gilda Cobb Hunter remarked, I can hear Congressman Lewis saying, Who’s next to get in the way, to fight the good fight”? And we owe it to him to raise our hands and answer “it’s me, I am ready.”
We have certainly lost a true hero.