Civil rights icon and 17-term Georgia Rep. John Lewis died Friday in Atlanta, The Associated Press has reported.
He was 80.
Lewis, the son of Alabama sharecroppers whose fight for racial equality spanned seven decades, had waged a long battle with pancreatic cancer, The Hill reported.
First elected in 1986 and lauded as the “Conscious of Congress,” Lewis, a staunch Democrat, commanded respect from both sides of the aisle.
But he forged his reputation in the 1960s, as a social justice leader.
Lewis was a keynote speaker at the March on Washington in 1963, which he helped organize as a 23-year-old.
“We march today for jobs and freedom, but we have nothing to be proud of,” Lewis said back then, during the march from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.
“For hundreds and thousands of our brothers are not here. For they are receiving starvation wages, or no wages at all.”
“We are tired. We are tired of being beaten by policemen. We are tired of seeing our people locked up in jail over and over again.
“And then you holler, “Be patient.” How long can we be patient? We want our freedom and we want it now.”
Lewis had remained active in politics throughout the spring.
In April, he endorsed Joe Biden’s bid for the presidency, telling reporters, “It is my belief that we need Joe Biden now more than ever before.”
He said in a statement at the time, “I have stared down the deepest, and darkest forces in this nation.
“Vice President Joe Biden and I both believe that we are in a fight to redeem the soul of America.
“I know Joe Biden as a man of character and dignity — a man who can not, and will not rest when he sees injustice in our American home.”
With Post wires
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