John Lewis – Patriot 1980 – 2020

Rep. John Lewis descends the steps of the Capitol where he served 34 years. Succumbing to cancer last week. He has left a legacy for all peoples who treasure democracy and value public service.
Rep. John Lewis descends the steps of the Capitol where he served 34 years. Succumbing to cancer last week. He has left a legacy for all peoples who treasure democracy and value public service.

It is difficult to decide on even a few images that capture John Lewis, such was the breadth of his life of service to humankind.  For many of us, the first visual recollection of him was certainly curled up on the road, bloody and beaten after courageously crossing Pettus Bridge on March 7, 1965 in the fight for civil rights.  

Preceding that horrible moment, of course, was the picture of him, arm in arm with his idol, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., marching with other Black leaders toward the Lincoln Memorial on August 28, 1963.  Only now do we recall the it was he, as the 23-year old chairman of the SNCC who addressed the crowd moments before “I have a dream.”

We will leave it to others to follow his journey from steamy labor in the fields of his father’s sharecrop farm in Troy, Alabama, through his perilous youth protesting lunch counter segregation in Nashville and as an original member of the 13 “Freedom Riders.  Before his 17 terms as a U.S. Representative from Georgia, he had won his spurs as a hardworking City Councilman in Atlanta.

We hope it is of value to our readers to quote just some of the hundreds of memorable statements he made during that lifetime of working for all Americans:

“To those who have said, ‘Be patient and wait,’ we have long said that we cannot be patient. We do not want our freedom gradually, but we want to be free now! 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.”  March on Washington speech, August 1963 

“It was very moving to see hundreds and thousands of people from all over America and around the world take to the streets to speak up, to speak out, to get into what I call good trouble… young and old, Black, white, Latino, Asian-American and Native American, because people cried and prayed, people will never, ever forget what happened.”  Black Lives Matter protests following George Floyd’s death, 2020

One group of people who helped us find our own courage in these communities were the local women, the matriarchal heads of so many of these households. Over and over again, we found that it was these women — wives and mothers in their 40s and 50s, hardworking, humorous, no-nonsense, incredibly resilient women, who … had been through so much unspeakable hell that there was nothing left on this earth for them to be afraid of …” Walking With the Wind, 1998

We have lost hundreds and thousands of innocent people to gun violence…. We have turned deaf ears to the blood of the innocent and the concern of our nation…. Newtown, Aurora, Charleston, Orlando. What is the tipping point?… Give us a vote! Let us vote! We came here to do our job.”  Sit-In on Floor of House of Representatives, June 22, 2016

“We must never ever give up or give in or throw in the towel. We must continue to press on! And be prepared to do what we can to help educate people, to motivate people, to inspire people to stay engaged, to stay involved and to not lose their sense of hope. We must continue to say we’re one people. We’re one family. Interview, New York, June 8, 2020 (Ted Behr)

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