Georgia congressman and civil rights leader John Lewis has died after battling pancreatic cancer. He was 80. From Deadline Hollywood:
Lewis was the last of the surviving of six leaders who organized the March on Washington in 1963, and the last living speaker who addressed the crowds at the Lincoln Memorial that day, led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his “I Have A Dream” speech.
By that time, Lewis had become chairman of the Student Non Violent Coordinating Committee, which promoted a philosophy of non violence as they staged sit ins and freedom rides to desegregate the south.
Although he was arrested and beaten numerous times, it was on March 7, 1965 that he was brutally attacked by Alabama state troopers in Selma, Alabama, fracturing his skull. Lewis and Hosea Williams had been leading hundreds of marchers across the Edmund Pettus Bridge, and the TV pictures of state troopers turning on the demonstrators that day, known as “Bloody Sunday,” helped galvanize public support for passage of the Voting Rights Act.
A biography of Lewis, His Truth Is Marching On: John Lewis and the Power of Hope, by Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Jon Meacham, is being published by Random House in October.
“America is poorer tonight,” Meacham said today on Twitter. “And the Kingdom of Heaven richer. ‘Within all of us there is the spark of the divine. Maybe it’s planted by God Almighty, and we have to use it for good, to be the best we can be.’ — John Lewis, in a conversation weeks before he died.” ◊