Remembering John Lewis: 'We Have Lost a Giant'

Tributes pour in from Obama, MLK Jr.'s family, and more
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 18, 2020 9:00 AM CDT
Remembering John Lewis: 'We Have Lost a Giant'
In this March 17, 1965, file photo, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., fourth from left, foreground, locks arms with his aides as he leads a march of several thousands to the courthouse in Montgomery, Ala. From left are: an unidentified woman, the Rev. Ralph Abernathy, James Forman, King, Jesse Douglas Sr.,...   (AP Photo/File)

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has ordered flags at the US Capitol to be flown at half-staff in honor of Rep. John Lewis, who died Friday at the age of 80 after a battle with pancreatic cancer. Tributes and statements are now pouring in for the civil rights legend and longtime congressman, including from former President Obama; the family of Martin Luther King Jr., who was close friends with Lewis; and many others. Read on for some standouts:

  • The Lewis family: They confirmed his death in a statement, saying they were caught in "inconsolable grief and enduring sadness" over his passing, per CBS News: "He was honored and respected as the conscience of the US Congress and an icon of American history, but we knew him as a loving father and brother. 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 nonviolent activism and was an outspoken advocate in the struggle for equal justice in America."

  • Barack Obama: In a statement posted on Medium, the former president called Lewis' life "exceptional," but one that Lewis thought any citizen could achieve. "Not many of us get to live to see our own legacy play out in such a meaningful, remarkable way," Obama writes. "John Lewis did. And thanks to him, we now all have our marching orders—to keep believing in the possibility of remaking this country we love until it lives up to its full promise." Read Obama's full statement here.
  • Bill and Hillary Clinton: "We have lost a giant," the Clintons said in a statement. "John Lewis gave all he had to redeem America's unmet promise of equality and justice for all, and to create a place for us to build a more perfect union together."
  • Mitt Romney: "America has lost not only a man of history, but a man for our season," the Utah senator tweeted. "O how we need such men of unwavering principle, unassailable character, penetrating purpose, and heartfelt compassion."
  • Mitch McConnell: "Our nation will never forget this American hero," the Senate majority leader said in a statement posted on social media, calling Lewis a "pioneering civil rights leader who put his life on the line."

  • Bernice King: "Farewell, sir," the youngest child of Martin Luther King Jr. tweeted. "You did, indeed, fight the good fight and get into a lot of good trouble. You served God and humanity well. Thank you. Take your rest."
  • Martin Luther King III: "John Lewis was an American treasure," posted MLK Jr.'s son. "He gave a voice to the voiceless, and he reminded each of us that the most powerful nonviolent tool is the vote. Our hearts feel empty without our friend, but we find comfort knowing that he is free at last."
  • Ava DuVernay: "Will never forget what you taught me and what you challenged me to be," wrote the film director and producer. "Better. Stronger. Bolder. Braver. God bless you, Ancestor John Robert Lewis of Troy, Alabama. Run into His arms." Deadline has tributes from many other politicians, celebrities, and business leaders, including Kamala Harris, Stacy Abrams, Viola Davis, and Apple's Tim Cook.
(More John Lewis stories.)

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