Via the New York Times:
Representative John Lewis, a son of sharecroppers and an apostle of nonviolence who was bloodied at Selma and across the Jim Crow South in the historic struggle for racial equality, and who then carried a mantle of moral authority into Congress, died on Friday. He was 80.
His death was confirmed in a statement by Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House of Representatives.
Mr. Lewis, of Georgia, announced on Dec. 29 that he had Stage 4 pancreatic cancer and vowed to fight it with the same passion with which he had battled racial injustice. “I have been in some kind of fight — for freedom, equality, basic human rights — for nearly my entire life,” he said.
On the front lines of the bloody campaign to end Jim Crow laws, with blows to his body and a fractured skull to prove it, Mr. Lewis was a valiant stalwart of the civil rights movement and the last surviving speaker at the historic March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963.
More than a half-century later, after the killing in May of George Floyd, a Black man in police custody in Minneapolis, Mr. Lewis welcomed the resulting global demonstrations against police killings of Black people and, more broadly, against systemic racism in many corners of society. He saw those protests as a continuation of his life’s work, though his illness had left him to watch from the sidelines.
“It was very moving, very moving to see hundreds of 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,’” Mr. Lewis told “CBS This Morning” in June.
“This feels and looks so different,” he said of the Black Lives Matter movement, which drove the anti-racism demonstrations. “It is so much more massive and all inclusive.” He added, “There will be no turning back.”
He died on the same day as did another stalwart of the civil rights movement, the Rev. C.T. Vivian, a close associate of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Mr. Lewis’s personal history paralleled that of the civil rights movement. He was among the original 13 Freedom Riders, the Black and white activists who challenged segregated interstate travel in the South in 1961. He was a founder and early leader of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, which coordinated lunch-counter sit-ins. He helped organize the March on Washington, where Dr. King was the main speaker, on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.
Mr. Lewis led demonstrations against racially segregated restrooms, hotels, restaurants, public parks and swimming pools, and he rose up against other indignities of second-class citizenship. At nearly every turn he was beaten, spat upon or burned with cigarettes. He was tormented by white mobs and absorbed body blows from law enforcement.
On March 7, 1965, he led one of the most famous marches in American history. In the vanguard of 600 people demanding the voting rights they had been denied, Mr. Lewis marched partway across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala., into a waiting phalanx of state troopers in riot gear.
Ordered to disperse, the protesters silently stood their ground. The troopers responded with tear gas and bullwhips and rubber tubing wrapped in barbed wire. In the melee, known as Bloody Sunday, a trooper cracked Mr. Lewis’s skull with a billy club, knocking him to the ground, then hit him again when he tried to get up.
In 2016, after a massacre at an Orlando, Fla., nightclub left 49 people dead, he led a sit-in on the House floor to protest federal inaction on gun control. The demonstration drew the support of 170 lawmakers, but Republicans dismissed it as a publicity stunt and squelched any legislative action.
Through it all, the events of Bloody Sunday were never far from his mind, and every year Mr. Lewis traveled to Selma to commemorate its anniversary. Over time, he watched attitudes change. At the ceremony in 1998, Joseph T. Smitherman, who had been Selma’s segregationist mayor in 1965 and was still mayor — though a repentant one — gave Mr. Lewis a key to the city.
“Back then, I called him an outside rabble-rouser,” Mr. Smitherman said of Mr. Lewis. “Today, I call him one of the most courageous people I ever met.”
Mr. Lewis was a popular speaker at college commencements and always offered the same advice — that the graduates get into “good trouble,” as he had done against his parents’ wishes.
He put it this way on Twitter in 2018:
“Do not get lost in a sea of despair. Be hopeful, be optimistic. Our struggle is not the struggle of a day, a week, a month, or a year, it is the struggle of a lifetime. Never, ever be afraid to make some noise and get in good trouble, necessary trouble.”