BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Religious faith was a lifelong constant for Rep. John Lewis.
He spent his boyhood in Alabama preaching to a make-believe congregation of chickens and siblings.
He went on to be inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and to learn nonviolence protests tactics from ministers and other teachers.
Lewis often cited religious faith as a reason for his activism.
Lewis worried aloud that some didn’t understand the importance of religion to the civil rights movement.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi confirmed Lewis’ passing late Friday night, calling him “one of the greatest heroes of American history.”
“All of us were humbled to call Congressman Lewis a colleague, and are heartbroken by his passing,” Pelosi said. “May his memory be an inspiration that moves us all to, in the face of injustice, make ‘good trouble, necessary trouble.’”
“Like the rest of the nation, I am deeply saddened that One of our heroes has transitioned. His foot prints and his works will be with us for eternity. And he will forever be remembered in my heart for the roadmap he laid for us to follow,” Forsyth County Sheriff Bobby Kimbrough said.
The condolences for Lewis were bipartisan. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Lewis was “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. ”
Lewis’s announcement in late December 2019 that he had been diagnosed with advanced pancreatic cancer — “I have never faced a fight quite like the one I have now,” he said — inspired tributes from both sides of the aisle, and an unstated accord that the likely passing of this Atlanta Democrat would represent the end of an era.
The announcement of his death came just hours after the passing of the Rev. C.T. Vivian, another civil rights leader who died early Friday at 95.
Lewis was the youngest and last survivor of the Big Six civil rights activists, a group led by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. that had the greatest impact on the movement. He was best known for leading some 600 protesters in the Bloody Sunday march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma.