The following is a statement from Congresswoman Katherine Clark on the passing of Rep. John Lewis of Georgia. The two had become friends since Clark was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. They participated in a sit-in at the Capitol, after the Orlando shooting to push for more gun control legislation in America. Rep. Lewis died over the weekend from cancer. He was a civil rights icon.
MELROSE – “John knew oppression, and he knew racial violence. He had been beaten, clubbed, spat on, and denigrated. John had experienced the worst forms of bigotry, seen the worst in people, yet it had deepened his faith and steeled his determination. John Lewis was tested, and he emerged the kindest man I have ever known. Compassion and integrity pulsed through his every action, big or small. He had time for everyone, and everyone who knew him considered him a friend. He lived and led with love.
“I was fortunate to take part in pilgrimages to Selma and the civil rights trail with John. To hear John Lewis speak on the Edmund Pettus Bridge about the events of March 7, 1965, was momentous. That bridge has a steep rise, flattens in the middle and, then descends. Because of its structure, you cannot see the other side of the bridge until you are in the middle. Imagine a 25 year old John Lewis leading a column of 600 peaceful marchers and seeing, from the middle of the bridge, the sea of state troopers and the angry crowd awaiting them. John did not falter in the face of hate and violence. He was fortified by the moral clarity of his actions- that every American should have the right to vote.
“We know what happened next; the marchers were beaten, trampled, and gassed. They reassembled and brought more marchers. They made it to the state Capitol in Montgomery, and they made the Civil Rights Act the law of the land.
“Today, we find ourselves in the middle of the bridge again. Ahead, we can see danger, we see those gathered who seek to divide our country, suppress the vote, and cut off opportunity. While John Lewis cannot physically lead us across that bridge, he has taught us what to do.
“A few weeks ago, John said he grieved for the soul of America, but that the peaceful protests left him more optimistic about our country’s future than he had ever been; that we must remain optimistic, that we must not lose our faith. We will honor John Lewis, by continuing his march, continuing the fight for justice and equality for all. We will gather our courage from his, we will march together for justice as he did, we will meet violence and deception with faith and truth.
“I will mourn not seeing my extraordinary friend, but I am immensely grateful for his life and inspiration. My heart and prayers go out to John’s family and staff. Rest in peace and power, Brother John.”
Photo courtesy of U.S. Rep. Donna Edwards