John Lewis Was Not Always Liked By His Friends, Praised By Everyone In Death

One of the last major icons of the Civil Rights Movement, John Lewis, passed away on Friday at age 80 from pancreatic cancer. Lewis leaves behind a legacy of fighting for racial equality and leading a movement that ended racial segregation in America. Lewis died as a new movement is rising to the challenge of fighting obstacles, such as police brutality and systemic racism. Lewis lauded the Black Lives Matter movement while speaking to CBS back in June. He said, “It was very moving, very moving to see hundreds of thousands of people from all over America and around the world take to the streets — to speak up, to speak out, to get into what I call ‘good trouble.’” He added, “There will be no turning back.”

Lewis came from humble beginnings as a son of sharecroppers. He also had a stammer when he spoke and many in the movement thought he was not elegant enough to contribute in any meaningful way. In the book, Parting the Waters, Taylor Branch describes the first time John Lewis and Martin Luther King Jr. met each other. “King encountered a young man somewhat like himself in appearance—small, study, dark-skinned, with a rounded face built for warmth more than looks—but completely lacking in refinement. Lewis spoke with a stammer, and could barely complete a full sentence even when the stammer gave him peace. He said he had “come up” so far back in the country that he could not remember even seeing a white person in his youth. This made him decidedly not the type the NAACP lawyers had been choosing for integration test cases, because he appeared to be a Negro whom no amount of education could polish. Yet there was an incandescence in Lewis that shone through all his shortcomings.”

Lewis did not always get along with his allies as he had disagreements with the likes of Thurgood Marshall who was against the more aggressive methods that Lewis employed. Lewis made his name during the events of “Bloody Sunday” when he and other marchers were brutalized by the Alabama State troopers. Lewis has been praised in death by many over the country, including, Republicans like Gov. Brian Kemp of Georgia. He said, “Congressman John Lewis was a Civil Rights hero, freedom fighter, devoted public servant, and beloved Georgian who changed our world in a profound way.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell also praised Lewis, saying that 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.” Many have pointed out that both Kemp and McConnell have tried to damage the voting rights of black Americans which was the main thing Lewis fought to protect. 

President Trump on the other hand, did not mention Lewis’ passing until Saturday despite all of the outpourings on Friday once the news was known. President Obama shined a light on the character of John Lewis in a tweet. He wrote, “In so many ways, John’s life was exceptional. But he never believed that what he did was more than any citizen of this country might do. He believed that in all of us, there exists the capacity for great courage, a longing to do what’s right, a willingness to love all people, and to extend to them their God-given rights to dignity and respect. And it’s because he saw the best in all of us that he will continue, even in his passing, to serve as a beacon in that long journey towards a more perfect union.”

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