Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Georgia Rep. John Lewis speaks during the Let Freedom Ring ceremony at the Lincoln Memorial August 28, 2013 in Washington, D.C. commemorating the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech. (Photo: Joe Sohm/Visions of America/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

'The World Has Lost a Legend': Civil Rights Hero John Lewis Dies at 80

"It is up to us to pick up his mantle and carry on."

Jake Johnson

Georgia Congressman John Lewis, whose courageous activism throughout the 1960s in the face of beatings by white supremacist mobs and police helped galvanize the movement for civil rights, died Friday after a six-month fight with Stage 4 pancreatic cancer.

Lewis' family announced his passing in a statement Friday evening.

"He was honored and respected as the conscience of the U.S. Congress and an icon of American history, but we knew him as a loving father and brother," the statement reads. "He was a stalwart champion in the ongoing struggle to demand respect for the dignity and worth of every human being. He dedicated his entire life to non-violent activism and was an outspoken advocate in the struggle for equal justice in America. He will be deeply missed."

Lewis was elected to represent Georgia's 5th congressional district in 1987 after years of involvement with the campaign to dismantle Jim Crow and secure civil rights for Black people. Lewis, one of the original Freedom Riders, was among the demonstrators brutally beaten by police during a peaceful march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama on March 7, 1965.

"The world has lost a legend; the civil rights movement has lost an icon, the city of Atlanta has lost one of its most fearless leaders, and the Congressional Black Caucus has lost our longest serving member," the CBC said late Friday. "Despite more than 40 arrests, brutal attacks, and physical injuries, Mr. Lewis remained devoted to the philosophy of nonviolence in his fight for justice and equality."

"John Lewis was a national treasure and a civil rights hero for the ages," the NAACP said in a statement early Saturday. "We are deeply saddened by his passing but profoundly grateful for his immense contributions to justice. He used every waking moment of his 80 years to push this country toward more representative democracy and left behind a remarkable model."

"It is up to us to pick up his mantle and carry on," the group added, "and we urge the entire nation to join us."


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

Please select a donation method:

As Progressives Call for End to Blockade, Biden Announces More Sanctions Against Cuba

The move comes after Democratic leadership in the House blocked an amendment to roll back limits on how much money people in the United States can send to family on the island nation.

Jessica Corbett ·


Progressives Issue Dire Warning as House Bill to Extend Eviction Moratorium Dies

"If Congress does not act now, the fallout of the eviction crisis will undoubtedly set us backwards as the Covid-19 pandemic continues to ravish our communities, needlessly contributing to more death and destruction."

Brett Wilkins ·


Citing Donziger Case, Dems Raise Alarm About Use of Private Prosecutors in Federal Court

Private prosecutions of criminal contempt charges, said a pair of senators, "are highly unusual and can raise concerning questions of fundamental fairness in our criminal justice system."

Jessica Corbett ·


'About Damn Time': DOJ Says Treasury Department Must Give Trump's Tax Returns to Congress

"This case is now bigger even than Donald Trump's crimes. Neither the courts, nor the machinery of our government, exist to bodyguard a corrupt private citizen from transparency."

Jake Johnson ·


'Just Say That the Election Was Corrupt,' Trump Told DOJ in December

"It was a failed coup. Call it what it was. It didn't work! But they sure as hell tried."

Kenny Stancil ·