John Lewis, a pioneer of the civil rights movement and longtime member of the United States House of Representatives, died on Friday.
Lewis, a member of Congress from Atlanta who had announced in December that he had advanced pancreatic cancer, was 80.
“He loved this country so much that he risked his life and his blood so that it might live up to its promise,” former President Barack Obama said in a statement.
“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.”
Former US President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in a joint statement, “We have lost a giant. 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.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Lewis was a “titan of the civil rights movement whose goodness, faith and bravery transformed our nation”.
“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,” Pelosi said in a statement.
Civil rights pioneer
Lewis was a protege of Martin Luther King Jr, whom he met after writing to him when Lewis was just 18. He was the last surviving speaker from the 1963 March on Washington, having stood beside King when he made his “I Have a Dream” speech.
Two years later, Lewis nearly died while leading hundreds of marchers across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama on a peace march to Montgomery when state troopers, seeking to intimidate those demonstrating for voting rights for Black Americans, attacked protesters.
Lewis suffered a fractured skull on the day that would become known as “Bloody Sunday”.
Fifty years later, in 2015, he walked across the bridge arm in arm with Obama, the nation’s first Black president, to mark the anniversary of the Selma to Montgomery march.
Lewis first entered Congress in 1986 and quickly became a figure of moral authority, with Pelosi labelling him “the conscience of the Congress”.
Lewis kept up the fight for civil rights and human rights until the end of his life, inspiring others with calls to make documentary Good Trouble.
He made his last public appearance in June, as protests for racial justice swept the US and the world.
Using a cane, he walked with Washington, DC Mayor Muriel Bowser on a street by the White House that Bowser had just renamed Black Lives Matter Plaza, which had just been dedicated with a large yellow mural – large enough to be seen from space – reading “Black Lives Matter”.