John Lewis, D-Ga., in his office at the Cannon House Office Building. Graham, Douglas (Photographer)
By Andria Y. Carter, Media Consultant
CINCINNATI – Cincinnati’s Black community took to social media on Saturday to express their pain and encourage all to do more in light of the passing of Civil Rights icon Congressman John Lewis, 80, who died on Friday. Lewis’s death comes after a months-long battle with pancreatic cancer.
Lewis was considered the “Conscience of Congress” for his legacy fighting for what is right and supporting the many marches happening around the country including the Black Lives Matter movement. Of the many comments made on social media and in the news, people recognize that the country lost a man who had great moral fortitude.
Prior to the COVID-19 public health crisis currently gripping the nation, Lewis while battling pain from pancreatic cancer attended the 55th anniversary of the march on Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala. on March 1, 2020. There he walked with national and local leaders one final time, inspiring all, loving every moment of it and again leaving a lasting impression telling everyone to make “Good Trouble.”
“Get in good trouble, necessary trouble, and help redeem the soul of America,” said Rep. John Lewis during his remarks atop the Edmund Pettus Bridge.
Throughout his 17-terms in Congress, he made several trips to Cincinnati speaking on various issues, supporting local politicians and especially the young people who he saw as the future of America. Reacting to the passing of Lewis, Hamilton County Commissioner candidate Alicia Reece spoke of her involvement with Congressman Lewis over her political career on social media.
Reece said she was thankful and blessed to have met Lewis, walked with him, talked with him and have marched with him in Selma. She said she is dedicating her political campaign to John Lewis.
U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown remembered Lewis, saying “[he was] the conscience of Congress. A man of courage, principle, and tenacious faith. The first time I walked across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala. in 1998 was one of the most inspiring moments of my life. Thirty-three years earlier, John Lewis and other civil rights activists marched there in nonviolent resistance against the brutality and hate they faced in order to create change in our country.”
“John walked across bridge after bridge in his life to fight for justice, to embrace everyone with his kindness, and to help anyone in need. He was a freedom fighter and we all must continue his fight,” Brown said.
Across social media, many noted that Lewis was more than a Civil Rights icon, but a leader who was not afraid to speak his mind, fight for what he believed and help as many as he could.
State Rep. Sedrick Denson (D-33) said he will miss Lewis. “Integrity matters and Congressman John Lewis carried it with him every day.”
Congresswoman Joyce Beatty (D-Columbus) noted that Lewis was more than a friend and colleague, but a national treasure and one of the greatest fighters and a defender of freedom and justice. “He reminded us that a threat of injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. In that spirit, we must keep fighting for social justice, voting rights, quality education, affordable healthcare, and economic empowerment for every soul; and we must ‘never, ever be afraid to make some noise and get in good trouble, necessary trouble,” Beatty said.
John Lewis was born the son of sharecroppers on February 21, 1940, outside of Troy, Ala. He grew up on his family’s farm and attended segregated public schools in Pike County, Ala. As a young boy, he was inspired by the activism surrounding the Montgomery Bus Boycott and the words of the late Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., which he heard on radio broadcasts. In those pivotal moments, he made a decision to become 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.
As a student at Fisk University, Lewis organized sit-in demonstrations at segregated lunch counters in Nashville, Tenn. In 1961, he volunteered to participate in the Freedom Rides, which challenged segregation at interstate bus terminals across the south. He risked his life, beaten by angry mobs and arrested by police for challenging the injustice of Jim Crow laws in the South. At the height of the Movement, Lewis was named Chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), which he served from 1963 to 1966.
During this time, Lewis became a nationally recognized leader. By 1963, he was dubbed one of the Big Six leaders of the Civil Rights Movement. At the age of 23, he was an architect of and a keynote speaker at the historic March on Washington in August 1963.
In 1964, Lewis coordinated SNCC efforts to organize voter registration drives and community action programs during the Mississippi Freedom Summer. On March 7, 1965, with Hosea Williams, another noted Civil Rights leader, Lewis led 600 peaceful and orderly protestors across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala. The protestors intended to end the March in Montgomery, but were attacked by Alabama State Troopers in a brutal confrontation that became known as “Bloody Sunday.” News coverage of the attack helped to hasten the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Despite more than 40 arrests, physical attacks and serious injuries, Lewis remained a devoted advocate of the philosophy of nonviolence.
After serving on the Atlanta City Council, he was elected to Congress in November 1986 and has served as a representative for Georgia’s Fifth Congressional District for 17-terms. He is Senior Chief Deputy Whip for the Democratic Party in leadership in the House, a member of the House Ways & Means Committee, and Chairman of its Subcommittee on Oversight.