John Lewis Dead at 80; Civil Rights Icon and Congressman Passes After Pancreatic Cancer Fight

News reports say he passed away at home in Atlanta.


Funeral plans for Georgia congressman Rep. John Lewis, have not yet been announced, but memorials are expected to take place in Washington D.C., Atlanta and in his birthplace of Troy, Alabama, according to a reports.

Lewis died Friday after a long battle with pancreatic cancer at age 80. 

“While we grieved the loss of this legend, we are blessed to know that he touched so many people on every corner of the globe,” said his brother, Henry Grant Lewis during a family press conference, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported

During the appearance, he was joined by two more of Lewis’ brothers, Freddie and Samuel Lewis; his son Jerrick Lewis; and the congressman’s son, John-Miles Lewis.

Just hours before Lewis passed, fellow Civil Rights Movement luminary Rev. C.T. Vivian also died of natural causes at age 95. His funeral is scheduled for Thursday at 11 a.m.

There has been no announcement on whether Lewis’ body will lie in state at the U.S. Capitol building, but his fellow congressman, Maryland Rep. Elijah Cummings was given the honor after his passing in October 2019. He was the first African American to lie in state at the location.

Sunday night, a candlelight vigil in Lewis’ honor took place in downtown Atlanta where his own constituents remembered the impact he had.

“He was a part of Martin Luther King,” Atlanta resident Charlotte Dean told WSB-TV while in attendance. “He had the same beliefs as King, and it was like we lost Martin Luther King all over again to me.”

President Trump ordered that flags at the White House be flown at half-staff for part of Saturday, but Congressional Black Caucus chair Rep. Karen Bass said that flags should remain in that position until after his funeral.

“The nation is mourning the loss of an icon, people around the world know the difference that Mr. Lewis made in this country and we need to leave it at that. Now [Trump is] lowering flags for a day, I hope that the flags are lowered until Mr. Lewis is put to rest,” Bass said during an appearance on MSNBC.


Former President Barack Obama published a powerful tribute to John Lewis on Friday night (July 17). 

In a post published on Medium titled “My Statement on the Passing of Rep. John Lewis,” Obama wrote, “I first met John when I was in law school, and I told him then that he was one of my heroes. Years later, when I was elected a U.S. Senator, I told him that I stood on his shoulders.”
He continued, “When I was elected President of the United States, I hugged him on the inauguration stand before I was sworn in and told him I was only there because of the sacrifices he made. And through all those years, he never stopped providing wisdom and encouragement to me and Michelle and our family. We will miss him dearly.”

Read the full tribute, here.
JULY 17:

U.S. Rep. John Lewis has reportedly passed away at the age of 80.

According to USA Today, the Representative of Georgia’s 5th District died today, Friday, July 17 after battling Stage IV pancreatic cancer since December 2019.

The Lewis family has also issued a statement to the media saying, "It is with inconsolable grief and enduring sadness that we announce the passing of U.S. Rep. John Lewis.  He was honored and respected as the conscience of the US Congress and an icon of American history, but we knew him as a loving father and brother. He was a stalwart champion in the on-going struggle to demand respect for the dignity and worth of every human being.  He dedicated his entire life to non-violent activism and was an outspoken advocate in the struggle for equal justice in America. He will be deeply missed."

Lewis was a tireless activist for civil rights for over six decades, joining Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in his fight for voting rights for African Americans when he was in his 20s.

Lewis was also known for chairing and confounding the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). He led the march that was halted by police violence on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama in 1965, a landmark event in the history of the civil rights movement that later became known as “Bloody Sunday.”

RELATED: New Doc 'John Lewis: Good Trouble' Celebrates The Living Icon And His Passion For Social Justice

In 1961, while participating in the Freedom Rides challenging the segregation of Southern interstate bus terminals, Lewis was beaten and arrested. In 1963, Lewis played a large role in the historic March on Washington.

Lewis, a Democrat, has served in Congress since 1987. In late 2019, he discovered he had Stage 4 pancreatic cancer and vowed to fight it.

“While I am clear-eyed about the prognosis, doctors have told me that recent medical advances have made this type of cancer treatable in many cases, that treatment options are no longer as debilitating as they once were, and that I have a fighting chance,” Lewis said in a statement.

Debuting in July 2020, "John Lewis: Good Trouble" is a documentary on the life of the deceased Congressman examining the impact his steadfast work has had on the numerous people who have worked with him or been mentored by him. The film is a tribute to a life gifted to public service and gaining equality for all. 

"When you see something that is not right ... say something! Do something!" Lewis is shown saying, time and again, in speeches and appearances, counseling his audiences on the periodic need for "good trouble, necessary trouble."

On July 11, it had falsely been reported that Lewis had passed away. Those rumors were later refuted by his chief of staff, Michael Collins, who told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that Lewis was “resting comfortably at home.”

According to his official biography, Lewis holds a B.A. in Religion and Philosophy from Fisk University, and he is a graduate of the American Baptist Theological Seminary, both in Nashville, Tennessee. He has been awarded over 50 honorary degrees including Harvard University, Brown University, the University of Pennsylvania,  Princeton University, Morehouse College, Clark-Atlanta University, Howard University, and many more.

As the recipient of numerous awards from national and international institutions, Lewis received the highest civilian honor in the country granted by President Barack Obama, the Medal of Freedom as well as the Lincoln Medal from the historic Ford’s Theatre, the Golden Plate Award given by the Academy of Excellence, the Preservation Hero award given by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Non-Violent Peace Prize to name a few. 

Now, he can rest in peace knowing that his work as an activist, Freedom Rider, politician, 40 years of arrests, beatings, "good" trouble maker is the perfect example that so many others will now be brave enough to follow. 

Survived by his only son, John Miles Lewis. Our thoughts are with John Lewis' family and friends during this difficult time.

The outpouring of love and rememberence has already begun as news of Congressman Lewis' passing hit social media. Here are a few of the people who fondly say goodbye to the civil rights icon and humanitarian. 

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