Remembering John Lewis: Friends, colleagues honor Georgia congressman

ATLANTA — Friends and fellow colleagues across the country are remembering Rep. John Lewis. The longtime congressman and civil rights icon died Friday at the age of 80 following a battle with Stage IV pancreatic cancer.

LIVE coverage of how Lewis is being honored across the metro and the country, on Channel 2 Action News at 6 p.m.

Here is a look at how he is being remembered:

Statement from his family:

“It is with inconsolable grief and enduring sadness that we announce the passing of U.S. Rep. John Lewis. 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 on-going 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.”

Former President Jimmy Carter:

“Rosalynn and I are saddened by the death of Congressman John Lewis. He made an indelible mark on history through his quest to make our nation more just. John never shied away from what he called “good trouble” to lead our nation on the path toward human and civil rights. Everything he did, he did in a spirit of love. All Americans, regardless of race or religion, owe John Lewis a debt of gratitude. We send our condolences and prayers to his family and friends.”

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi:

“Today, America mourns the loss of one of the greatest heroes of American history: Congressman John Lewis, the Conscience of the Congress.

“John Lewis was a titan of the civil rights movement whose goodness, faith and bravery transformed our nation – from the determination with which he met discrimination at lunch counters and on Freedom Rides, to the courage he showed as a young man facing down violence and death on Edmund Pettus Bridge, to the moral leadership he brought to the Congress for more than 30 years.

“In the halls of the Capitol, he was fearless in his pursuit of a more perfect union, whether through his Voter Empowerment Act to defend the ballot, his leadership on the Equality Act to end discrimination against LGBTQ Americans or his work as a Senior Member of the Ways and Means Committee to ensure that we invest in what we value as a nation.

“Every day of John Lewis’s life was dedicated to bringing freedom and justice to all. As he declared 57 years ago during the March on Washington, standing in the shadow of the Lincoln Memorial: ‘Our minds, souls, and hearts cannot rest until freedom and justice exist for all the people.’ How fitting it is that even in the last weeks of his battle with cancer, John summoned the strength to visit the peaceful protests where the newest generation of Americans had poured into the streets to take up the unfinished work of racial justice. His visit with Mayor Bowser, the Mayor of Washington, painted an iconic picture of justice.

“In the Congress, John Lewis was revered and beloved on both sides of the aisle and both sides of the Capitol. All of us were humbled to call Congressman Lewis a colleague, and are heartbroken by his passing. May his memory be an inspiration that moves us all to, in the face of injustice, make ‘good trouble, necessary trouble.’

“God truly blessed America with the life and leadership of John Lewis. May it be a comfort to his son John-Miles, his entire family, Michael Collins and his entire staff that so many mourn their loss and are praying for them at this sad time.”


Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell:

“The Senate and the nation mourn the loss of Congressman John Lewis, 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.

“Congressman Lewis’ place among the giants of American history was secure before his career in Congress had even begun. This son of sharecroppers in segregated Alabama helped to found and lead the mid-century Civil Rights movement. As a student in Nashville, John organized groundbreaking sit-ins at lunch counters. He was one of the 13 original Freedom Riders, assaulted and arrested for insisting on integrated bus travel. And as Chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, John helped lead and organize the entire March on Washington at age 23 and addressed the massive assembly. John Lewis risked everything. He endured hatred and violence. But he kept working, because he was convinced that our nation had to be better.

“Since 1986, Congressman Lewis brought that same spirit of service to the Capitol. You did not need to agree with John on many policy details to be awed by his life, admire his dedication to his neighbors in Georgia’s Fifth District, or appreciate his generous, respectful, and friendly bearing.

“I will never forget joining hands with John as members of Congress sang We Shall Overcome at a 2008 ceremony honoring his friend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. It could not have been more humbling to consider what he had suffered and sacrificed so those words could be sung in that place.

“Dr. King famously said “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” But progress is not automatic. Our great nation’s history has only bent towards justice because great men like John Lewis took it upon themselves to help bend it. Our nation will never forget this American hero.”


Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms

“The most humble of heroes, the most brave of giants. @repjohnlewis loved unconditionally and called upon us all to be a better version of ourselves. He was my Congressman and my best example of true servant leadership. I am grateful for his life and the joy of having known him.”

“There are no words to describe the tremendous loss that Americans, Atlantans, and I personally feel upon learning of the passing of Congressman John Lewis. America knew him as a Civil Rights Icon, Congressional Giant, and a moral compass, but I knew him as a friend. The people of Atlanta often called upon Congressman Lewis for counsel, guidance, and assistance with getting into good trouble. No matter how busy his schedule, or important his Washington duties were, he answered. We were privileged to be represented by a leader with both a pure heart and an unshakable commitment to human rights. As we persevere in the modern fight for social justice, we should honor his legacy by continuing to hold on to hope. I pray for his family, his constituents, and all who loved and were impacted by the life of Congressman John Lewis.”

Gov. Brian Kemp:

“A civil rights icon, freedom fighter, and beloved Georgian, Rep. John Lewis lost his battle with cancer today. Our nation will never be the same without him. There are no words to adequately express the sadness that countless Americans are feeling upon learning this news.

“John Lewis changed our world in profound and immeasurable ways. Marty, the girls, and I are praying for all of his loved ones, friends, and colleagues in this incredibly difficult time.”

President Donald J. Trump

“Saddened to hear the news of civil rights hero John Lewis passing. Melania and I send our prayers to he and his family.” The president also ordered flags to be lowered to half-staff.

Former President Barack Obama:

“America is a constant work in progress. What gives each new generation purpose is to take up the unfinished work of the last and carry it further — to speak out for what’s right, to challenge an unjust status quo, and to imagine a better world.

“John Lewis — one of the original Freedom Riders, chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, the youngest speaker at the March on Washington, leader of the march from Selma to Montgomery, Member of Congress representing the people of Georgia for 33 years — not only assumed that responsibility, he made it his life’s work. He loved this country so much that he risked his life and his blood so that it might live up to its promise. And through the decades, he not only gave all of himself to the cause of freedom and justice, but inspired generations that followed to try to live up to his example.

“Considering his enormous impact on the history of this country, what always struck those who met John was his gentleness and humility. Born into modest means in the heart of the Jim Crow South, he understood that he was just one of a long line of heroes in the struggle for racial justice. Early on, he embraced the principles of nonviolent resistance and civil disobedience as the means to bring about real change in this country, understanding that such tactics had the power not only to change laws, but to change hearts and minds as well.

“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.

“I first met John when I was in law school, and I told him then that he was one of my heroes. Years later, when I was elected a U.S. Senator, I told him that I stood on his shoulders. When I was elected President of the United States, I hugged him on the inauguration stand before I was sworn in and told him I was only there because of the sacrifices he made. And through all those years, he never stopped providing wisdom and encouragement to me and Michelle and our family. We will miss him dearly.

“It’s fitting that the last time John and I shared a public forum was at a virtual town hall with a gathering of young activists who were helping to lead this summer’s demonstrations in the wake of George Floyd’s death. Afterwards, I spoke to him privately, and he could not have been prouder of their efforts — of a new generation standing up for freedom and equality, a new generation intent on voting and protecting the right to vote, a new generation running for political office. I told him that all those young people — of every race, from every background and gender and sexual orientation — they were his children. They had learned from his example, even if they didn’t know it. They had understood through him what American citizenship requires, even if they had heard of his courage only through history books.

“Not many of us get to live to see our own legacy play out in such a meaningful, remarkable way. 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.”


Bernice King:

Farewell, sir.

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.

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.


Former Georgia Senator Johnny Isakson:

‪”I am terribly saddened by the loss of a great man. Rep. John Lewis was a man of faith, who fought every battle with dignity, including his last. His legacy and the lessons he leaves behind have touched us all, and my prayers are with all who loved him. We will miss you, my friend.”


Georgia Senator David Perdue:

“No one embodied the word ‘courage’ better than John Lewis. As a civil rights icon, John inspired millions of Americans to fight injustice and reject the status quo. Without a doubt, his wisdom and resolve made the world a better place.”


Former President Bill Clinton:

“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. In so doing he became the conscience of the nation.

“Hillary and I were blessed by his friendship, support and wise counsel. We’ll miss him so much, but we’ll always be grateful that he lived to see a new generation of Americans take to the streets in search of his long sought ‘”beloved community.’”


Former President George W. Bush:

“Laura and I join our fellow Americans in mourning the loss of Congressman John Lewis. As a young man marching for equality in Selma, Alabama, John answered brutal violence with courageous hope. And throughout his career as a civil rights leader and public servant, he worked to make our country a more perfect union. America can best honor John’s memory by continuing his journey toward liberty and justice for all.”


Former Georgia Congressman and Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich:

“Congressman John Lewis was a true American hero. As a young man he endured numerous beatings, often by the police, to advance the cause of desegregation and freedom.His commitment to change through non violent protest was historic and changed history. He leaves a big legacy.

“Congressman Lewis would be a great and fitting example for the new national statue garden. He represents a part of American history we can all be proud of. Millions of African Americans lead better lives today because of John Lewis. All Americans have been touched by his courage.”

Atlanta City Councilman Michael Julian Bond:

“This is truly the day that freedom sighed. I am woefully saddened to learn of the passing of civil rights icon and courageous freedom fighter, the Honorable Congressman John Lewis. Congressman Lewis was more than just a senior member of the civil rights community, he was one of the great pillars of the modern civil rights movement, a member of the “Big Six,” who spoke at the March on Washington in 1963.

“Chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, he cut his teeth on civic activism and refined his craft of civil disobedience crusading for equal treatment, and full freedoms for African Americans during the civil rights movement and beyond.

“His legacy and service are well known, and his legend should never fade from our hearts. I mourn him, not just as an American icon, but also as a godfather, mentor and friend. John and his lovely wife, Lillian, were second parents to me and my siblings and best friends of my father and mother.

“In the formative years of my life, we had the bonus of their kindness, support, and love. As I grew to manhood and followed he and my father into public service, his wisdom, advice, encouragement, and example provided the blueprint for my own path.

“I extend my deepest condolences to his son, John, and the entire Lewis family and all those who love freedom and justice during this incomprehensible loss. May God continue to bless America, as he blessed us all with the life John Robert Lewis.”


Hank Aaron

“John and I connected to the roots. By that, I mean we were both born and grew up in the highly racist and segregated south, in the state of Alabama. He committed his life to the struggle for justice and equality for all people. He was one of the great civil rights icons and led a life of service for the betterment of all of mankind. We have lost a giant of a man.”


Democratic Party of Georgia Chairwoman Nikema Williams:

“Our country has lost a giant tonight. Congressman John Lewis was America’s greatest champion in the fight for justice and equality, and showed us all how to put the people first. His legacy of Good Trouble will ring on in generations to follow, a guiding light for those continuing to march toward a more righteous future.

“He was my hero and my friend, and I will miss him very much.”


Atlanta City Council President Felicia Moore:

“With the passing of Congressman John Lewis, we mourn the loss of a civil rights giant and present-day leader who daily exemplified what it means to lay down one’s life in service to others. He was a lifetime Freedom Rider on the front lines of the fight for justice, a noble statesman, and a living monument to the triumphant nature of the human spirit. Congressman John Lewis will truly be missed by the City of Atlanta and the world. I offer my deepest condolences to his family and close friends during this difficult time.”


New Birth Missionary Baptist Church Senior Pastor Dr. Jamal Bryant

“America is a better and more just nation because of the lives and legacies of Rev. C.T. Vivian and Congressman John Lewis,” said Bryant. “We are compelled to continue carrying the torch in honor of these great titans of the civil rights movement.”

MARTA CEO Jeff Parker

“MARTA joins the entire world in mourning the loss of a true American hero, Congressman John Lewis.

A tireless and effective advocate for justice and opportunity for all, Lewis understood full well the importance of public transportation in building a more fair and equitable nation. On the occasion of MARTA’s 30th anniversary, Congressman Lewis proclaimed, “MARTA is a shining example of what can be done. We wouldn’t be the capital of the American South if we hadn’t had MARTA.”

The entire Atlanta region has Congressman Lewis to thank for hundreds of millions of dollars invested in MARTA’s expansion and operations. John Lewis loved MARTA and we will keep him in our hearts as we strive to honor and uphold his inspiring legacy.”

Comments on this article