Southland Democrats were praising the life of the late Georgia Congressman John Lewis today, one day after the civil rights icon died at the age of 80.
“John Lewis was a revered civil rights icon who dedicated his entire life to what became his signature mantra, making ‘good trouble,'” said Rep. Maxine Waters of Los Angeles. “Despite being one of the youngest leaders of the civil rights movement, John Lewis galvanized and inspired hundreds of his peers to join in the fight for equal rights. He was a founder and leader of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee; he organized and led countless marches and freedom rides across the Jim Crow South; and he worked alongside Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in the struggle to secure the right to vote and end the demoralizing discrimination, unconscionable violence, and debilitating poverty facing Africans Americans.
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55 years ago today, we were beaten, tear gassed, and trampled by horses. I thought I saw death. I thought I was going to die. I don't know how I made it back, but I know we cannot rest. We cannot become weary. We must keep pushing and pulling and find a way to get in the way.
“Very few people could have been harassed, arrested more than 40 times, beaten within inches of their lives, and still espouse Dr. King and Mahatma Gandhi’s teachings of nonviolence, peace, and love. However, these principles were core philosophies to John Lewis, and our nation is forever indebted to him for his humble sacrifices.”
As a young man, Lewis was on the forefront of the civil rights movement of the 1960s. His beating by a state trooper while helping lead a march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala., in March of 1965 was credited with helping to spur passage of the landmark Voting Rights Act by Congress just days later.
Lewis was first elected to the House of Representatives in 1986, representing a district that included much of Atlanta. He held the seat until his death.
Lewis had announced at the end of 2019 that he had Stage 4 pancreatic cancer. He lived long enough to see a new and powerful civil rights movement spring up around the country in the aftermath of the Memorial Day death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
“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,'” Lewis said on “CBS This Morning” last month.
He added that the Black Lives Matter movement “feels and looks so different” from the 1960s protest movement. “It is so much more massive and all inclusive. There will be no turning back.”
Lewis received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, from President Barack Obama in 2011.
“John Lewis was an icon. He was a liberal lion with a fierce independence and innate decency. He truly was the ‘conscience of Congress.’ My heart goes out to his family and his many, many friends,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein tweeted.
“John Lewis was an icon who fought with every ounce of his being to advance the cause of civil rights for all Americans. I’m devastated for his family, friends, staff — and all those whose lives he touched. My friend, thank you for showing the world what #GoodTrouble looks like,” Sen. Kamala Harris tweeted.
“From freedom rides to a bridge in Selma, from a March on Washington to the halls of Congress, from despair to hope: John Lewis personified the never-ending pursuit of freedom and the everlasting struggle for a union made more perfect — by citizens willing to work for it,” Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti wrote. “The story of the civil rights movement would be incomplete without his imprint. The beautiful symphony of brotherhood and sisterhood would be off-key without his voice. We will keep your mission alive by making good trouble for justice. Rest in Power, John Lewis.”
Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia also took to Twitter, writing: “Rep.John Lewis will be remembered as an American hero and icon. We mourn his passing but will never forget his legacy in moving our country towards justice. RIP.”
Rep. Linda Sanchez, whose 38th District includes parts of Whittier, Norwalk, Santa Fe Springs, La Mirada and Cerritos, said “We lost a giant, John Lewis. He was more than a colleague to me, and so many others — he was a mentor and a moral guide. We thank him for standing up, for raising hell, and paving the way for so many.”
President Donald Trump, a frequent target of Lewis’ criticism over the last four years, ordered flags at the White House and all military and federal government facilities nationwide to be flown at half-staff Saturday, “As a mark of respect for the memory and longstanding public service (of Lewis).”
Lewis was one of many congressional Democrats who boycotted Trump’s inauguration in 2017.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson, president of the Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable, called on city leaders Saturday to name a public place in South L.A. in honor of Lewis.
“To honor John Lewis we call on the L.A. City Council and Mayor Garcetti to designate a public facility `John Lewis Square’ in Los Angeles,” Hutchinson said. “This is a fitting honor to his colossal fight for civil rights that had tremendous meaning for Los Angeles.”
His last public appearance was to the Black Lives Matter Plaza on June 7.
I had no idea this would be his last public appearance. What an honor it was to capture this moment for him. May he rest in power. 🖤🙏🏾 https://t.co/Ik7octnAwU
— Gary (@masterwilliams) July 18, 2020