John Lewis, the Congressman from Georgia who is a Civil Rights icon, has died, according to Politico. He was 80.
The sad news came on July 17 just days after a previous death hoax involving Lewis.
Previously, his chief of staff told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that Lewis was alive after false reports circled on Twitter that he had passed away on July 11, 2020.
“It’s only rumors,” Michael Collins told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “He is resting comfortably at home.” Journalist Yashar Ali also confirmed that Lewis has not died, writing on Twitter, “A top Democratic aide tells me that reports that Congressman John Lewis has died are FALSE.”
However, less than a week later, Lewis has in fact died.
The initial death report was given credence by Lewis’s colleague, Congresswoman Alma S. Adams. Adams represents North Carolina’s 12th District. However, she has since deleted her tweet. She then shared the AJC story debunking the false story that Lewis was dead, and wrote, “We deeply regret a previous tweet based on a false news report.” According to AJC, “a blog that focuses on news about historically black colleges & universities” also falsely reported that Lewis was dead.
Adams had written: “Words cannot do John Lewis justice because everything he did was in the service of Justice. He gave everything – including his blood and his body – to the Movement. It was an honor to make ‘good trouble’ with John in the House, and I will miss both my friend and the man himself.”
Lewis has been fighting stage 4 pancreatic cancer. He is 80 years old and undergoing treatment for cancer.
Here’s what you need to know:
Lewis Is a Civil Rights Icon Known as ‘the Conscience of the U.S. Congress’
Lewis’s website says, “Often called ‘one of the most courageous persons the Civil Rights Movement ever produced,’ John Lewis has dedicated his life to protecting human rights, securing civil liberties, and building what he calls ‘The Beloved Community’ in America. His dedication to the highest ethical standards and moral principles has won him the admiration of many of his colleagues on both sides of the aisle in the United States Congress.”
According to his bio, he has been called “the conscience of the U.S. Congress,” and Roll Call magazine has said, “John Lewis…is a genuine American hero and moral leader who commands widespread respect in the chamber.”
Lewis was the son of sharecroppers in Alabama. His official biography says he “grew up on his family’s farm and attended segregated public schools in Pike County, Alabama.” He was inspired as a child by the Montgomery Bus Boycott and through listening to Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., on the radio. “In those pivotal moments, he made a decision to become a part of the Civil Rights Movement. Ever since then, he has remained at the vanguard of progressive social movements and the human rights struggle in the United States,” the bio says.
His activism began at Fisk University, where he “organized sit-in demonstrations at segregated lunch counters in Nashville, Tennessee,” and participated in Freedom Rides that “challenged segregation at interstate bus terminals across the South. Lewis risked his life on those Rides many times by simply sitting in seats reserved for white patrons.”
He suffered physically for his heroism. “He was also beaten severely by angry mobs and arrested by police for challenging the injustice of Jim Crow segregation in the South,” the bio says. During the Movement’s height, he became Chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), and he became a national voice in the Movement in his 20s. By 1963, according to his bio, “he was dubbed one of the Big Six leaders of the Civil Rights Movement.”
His activism extended to voter registration drives and he helped lead “over 600 peaceful, orderly protestors across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama on March 7, 1965. They intended to march from Selma to Montgomery to demonstrate the need for voting rights in the state. The marchers were attacked by Alabama state troopers in a brutal confrontation that became known as ‘Bloody Sunday,'” says the bio.
He was arrested 40 times and suffered serious injuries from physical attacks, yet he remained, his biography says, “a devoted advocate of the philosophy of nonviolence.”
People Offered Tributes to Lewis as the News Spread & Then Relief as They Realized He Was Still Alive
Tributes quickly started flooding Twitter for Lewis. “I love that man. An actual hero among us,” wrote one person. However, people quickly expressed relief as word spread that Lewis was still alive. “Hoping that these tweets about John Lewis aren’t true. I refuse to accept this news. Not today,” wrote one woman.
“Bro. Congressman John Lewis is still alive! The rumors that he passed away today are not true! Thank God! 🙏🏾,” a man wrote.