Rep. John Lewis, lion of Civil Rights Movement, dies at 80

Representative John Lewis -- a lion of the Civil Rights Movement -- passed away after a battle with pancreatic cancer.

He was 80 years old.

During his more than three decades in Congress representing Georgia's 5th district, Rep. Lewis's name became synonymous with freedom.  

John Lewis was born in Troy, Alabama, in 1940.


WASHINGTON D.C. - MARCH 17: Congressman John Lewis (D-GA) is photographed in his offices in the Canon House office building on March 17, 2009 in Washington, D.C. The former Big Six leader of the civil rights movement was the architect and keynote spe

Inspired by the Montgomery bus boycotts and the message of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, Lewis rose to prominence as the chairman of the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee.


Reverend Martin Luther King Jr., (center) is escorted into a mass meeting at Fish University in Nashville. His colleagues are, left to right, John Lewis, national chairman of the Student Non-Violent Committee and Lester McKinnie, on of the leaders in

It was in that role that he spoke at the 1963 March on Washington for jobs and freedom where Dr. King delivered his famous "I Have a Dream" speech. Lewis was the youngest speaker on that historic day.

Two years later, Lewis was beaten mercilessly by Alabama State Police as he led a group of hundreds of marchers in Selma, suffering injuries that would leave visible scars for the rest of his life.


American politician and Civil Rights leader John Lewis speaks at a meeting of the American Society of Newspaper Editors, Washington DC, April 16, 1964. (Photo by Marion S Trikosko/PhotoQuest/Getty Images)

He was arrested more than 40 times during sit-ins and other protests. His physical courage made him a national icon.

READ ALSO: John Lewis: ‘Good troublemaker’ and tireless activist — a look at the life of the civil rights icon


A mug shot of civil rights activist and politician John Lewis, following his arrest in Jackson, Mississippi for using a restroom reserved for 'white' people during the Freedom Ride demonstration against racial segregation, 24th May 1961. (Photo by Ky

After an unsuccessful run for Congress in 1977, Lewis was elected to the Atlanta City Council in 1981 and then to Congress in 1986, where he rose to a leadership position on the powerful Ways and Means Committee and became a member of the Congressional Black Caucus.

In 2001, Lewis received the John F Kennedy Profile in Courage award.

John Lewis was an early supporter of Hillary Clinton in the 2008 presidential race but switched his allegiance to Barack Obama when it became clear the Senator from Illinois had a good shot at the White House.

President Obama presented Lewis with the 2010 Presidential Medal of Freedom.

In 2018, his adopted home - the City of Atlanta -- renamed Freedom Parkway to John Lewis Freedom Parkway.


WASHINGTON, DC - AUGUST 23: John Lewis attends the U.S. Postal Service Unveiling of the 1963 March On Washington Stamp on August 23, 2013 in Washington, United States. (Photo by Riccardo S. Savi/Getty Images for U.S. Postal Service)

His cancer diagnosis in December 2019 gave Americans yet another chance to show Representative Lewis how much they revered him.

President Obama tweeted at the time... "if there's one thing I love about John Lewis, it’s his incomparable will to fight. I know he’s got a lot more of that left in him."


UNITED STATES - FEBRUARY 14: Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., stands on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala., in between television interviews on Feb. 14, 2015. Rep. Lewis was beaten by police on the bridge on "Bloody Sunday" 50 years ago on March 7, 1965,