Civil rights icon, Congressman John Lewis, passed away on Friday (July 17) of pancreatic cancer at 80 years old.
As tributes poured in from around the world, former President Barack Obama released a powerful tribute to Lewis.
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.”
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Obama also wrote, “He loved this country so much that he risked his life and his blood so that it might live up to its promise. And through the decades, he not only gave all of himself to the cause of freedom and justice, but inspired generations that followed to try to live up to his example."
On February 15, 2011, Obama awarded Lewis the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor.
See the powerful moment below:
Lewis, often called the 'conscience' of Congress, was a tireless activist for civil rights for over six decades, first joining Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in the fight for voting rights when he was just 18.
Lewis was also known for chairing and co-founding the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).
Born in Troy Alabama in 1940, Lewis led the march that was halted by police violence on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama in 1965, a landmark event that later became known as “Bloody Sunday.”
Lewis passed away the same day as another civil rights activist, Rev. C. T. Vivian. He was also a pioneering civil rights organizer and field general for the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his Southern Christian Leadership Conference. He was 95.
Obama closed his statement on the congressman’s passing highlighting Lewis’ lasting impact: “Not many of us get to live to see our own legacy play out in such a meaningful, remarkable way. John Lewis did. And thanks to him, we now all have our marching orders — to keep believing in the possibility of remaking this country we love until it lives up to its full promise.”
Read President Obama’s entire statement here.
(Photo by ImageCatcher News Service/Corbis via Getty Images)