1. STILL of Rep. John Lewis being arrested after a news conference at the Sudanese Embassy regarding Darfur
Washington DC - 13 November 2006
2. STILL of Rep. Lewis taking part in the ground breaking ceremony for the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial
Selma, Alabama - 4 March 2007
3. STILL of Brown Chapel AME Church pastor James Jackson, Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama, Rep. Lewis and Rev. Clete Kiley holding hands and singing at the end of a church service
Washington DC - 15 February 2011
4. STILL of President Barack Obama presenting a 2010 Presidential Medal of Freedom to Rep. Lewis
Selma, Alabama - 7 March 2015
5. STILL of President Barack Obama embracing Rep. Lewis after Lewis introduced the president with an emotional speech
6. Lewis and President Barack Obama walk across Edmund Pettus Bridge on 50th anniversary of march
7. SOUNDBITE (English) Rep. John Lewis, (D) Georgia:
"We were beaten, tear-gassed, some of us was left bloody right here on this bridge. 17 of us were hospitalized that day. But we never became bitter or hostile. We kept believing that the truth we stood for would have the final say."
8. Wide of people crossing bridge
Washington DC - 22 June 2016
++QUALITY AS INCOMING++
9. SOUNDBITE (English) Rep. John Lewis, (D) Georgia:
"For months, even for years, through several sessions of Congress, I wondered: what would bring this body to take action? What would finally make Congress do what is right, what is just, what the people of this country have been demanding and what is long overdue? We have lost hundreds and thousands of innocent people to gun violence."
10. UPSOUND (English) Rep. Lewis stands with other Democrats on House floor:
"And what has this body done? Mr. Speaker, nothing. Not one thing. We have turned deaf ears, turned deaf ears to the blood of the innocent and the concern of our nation. We are blind to a crisis. Mr. Speaker, where is the heart of this body? Where is our soul?"
11. SOUNDBITE (English) Rep. John Lewis, (D) Georgia:
"We're calling on the leadership of the House to bring common sense gun control legislation to the House floor. Give us a vote! Let us vote! We came here to do our job. We came here to work!"
12. Various of House Democrats participating in sit-in
John Lewis, a lion of the civil rights movement 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, died. He was 80.
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.
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.
At age 25 - walking at the head of the march with his hands tucked in the pockets of his tan overcoat - Lewis was knocked to the ground and beaten by police. His skull was fractured, and nationally televised images of the brutality forced the country’s attention on racial oppression in the South.
Within days, King led more marches in the state, and President Lyndon Johnson soon was pressing Congress to pass the Voting Rights Act. The bill became law later that year, removing barriers that had barred Blacks from voting.
Lewis joined King and four other civil rights leaders in organizing the 1963 March on Washington. He spoke to the vast crowd just before King delivered his epochal “I Have a Dream” speech.
A 23-year-old firebrand, Lewis toned down his intended remarks at the insistence of others, dropping a reference to a “scorched earth” march through the South and scaling back criticisms of President John Kennedy. It was a potent speech nonetheless, in which he vowed: “By the forces of our demands, our determination and our numbers, we shall splinter the segregated South into a thousand pieces and put them together in an image of God and democracy.”
It was almost immediately, and forever, overshadowed by the words of King, the man who had inspired him to activism.
Lewis was born on Feb. 21, 1940, outside the town of Troy, in Pike County, Alabama. He grew up on his family’s farm and attended segregated public schools.
As a boy, he wanted to be a minister, and practiced his oratory on the family chickens. Denied a library card because of the color of his skin, he became an avid reader, and could cite obscure historical dates and details even in his later years. He was a teenager when he first heard King preaching on the radio. They met when Lewis was seeking support to become the first Black student at Alabama’s segregated Troy State University.
He ultimately attended the American Baptist Theological Seminary and Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee. He began organizing sit-in demonstrations at whites-only lunch counters and volunteering as a Freedom Rider, enduring beatings and arrests while traveling around the South to challenge segregation.
Lewis helped found the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and was named its chairman in 1963, making him one of the Big Six at a tender age. The others, in addition to King, were Whitney Young of the National Urban League; A. Philip Randolph of the Negro American Labor Council; James L. Farmer Jr., of the Congress of Racial Equality; and Roy Wilkins of the NAACP. All six met at the Roosevelt Hotel in New York to plan and announce the March on Washington.
The huge demonstration galvanized the movement, but success didn’t come quickly. After extensive training in nonviolent protest, Lewis and the Rev. Hosea Williams led demonstrators on a planned march of more than 50 miles from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama’s capital, on March 7, 1965. A phalanx of police blocked their exit from the Selma bridge.
Authorities shoved, then swung their truncheons, fired tear gas and charged on horseback, sending many to the hospital and horrifying much of the nation. King returned with thousands, completing the march to Montgomery before the end of the month.
Lewis turned to politics in 1981, when he was elected to the Atlanta City Council.
He won his seat in Congress in 1986 and spent much of his career in the minority. After Democrats won control of the House in 2006, Lewis became his party’s senior deputy whip, a behind-the-scenes leadership post in which he helped keep the party unified.
In an early setback for Barack Obama’s 2008 Democratic primary campaign, Lewis endorsed Hillary Rodham Clinton for the nomination. Lewis switched when it became clear Obama had overwhelming Black support. Obama later honored Lewis with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and they marched hand in hand in Selma on the 50th anniversary of the Bloody Sunday attack.
Lewis also worked for 15 years to gain approval for the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture. Humble and unfailingly friendly, Lewis was revered on Capitol Hill -- but as one of the most liberal members of Congress, he often lost policy battles, from his effort to stop the Iraq War to his defense of young immigrants.
He met bipartisan success in Congress in 2006 when he led efforts to renew the Voting Rights Act, but the Supreme Court later invalidated much of the law, and it became once again what it was in his youth, a work in progress. Later, when the presidency of Donald Trump challenged his civil rights legacy, Lewis made no effort to hide his pain.
Lewis refused to attend Trump’s inauguration, saying he didn’t consider him a “legitimate president” because Russians had conspired to get him elected. When Trump later complained about immigrants from “s---hole countries,” Lewis declared, “I think he is a racist ... we have to try to stand up and speak up and not try to sweep it under the rug.”
Lewis said he’d been arrested 40 times in the 1960s, five more as a congressman. At 78, he told a rally he’d do it again to help reunite immigrant families separated by the Trump administration.
“There cannot be any peace in America until these young children are returned to their parents and set all of our people free,” Lewis said in June, recalling the “good trouble” he got into protesting segregation as a young man.
“If we fail to do it, history will not be kind to us,” he shouted. “I will go to the border. I’ll get arrested again. If necessary, I’m prepared to go to jail.”
In a speech the day of the House impeachment vote of Trump, Lewis explained the importance of that vote.
“When you see something that is not right, not just, not fair, you have a moral obligation to say something, to do something. Our children and their children will ask us ‘what did you do? what did you say?” While the vote would be hard for some, he said: “We have a mission and a mandate to be on the right side of history.”
Lewis’ wife of four decades, Lillian Miles, died in 2012. They had one son, John Miles Lewis.