Civil Rights icon and Congressman John Lewis has died at age 80 after a six-month battle with pancreatic cancer.
Lewis served as the U.S. representative for Georgia’s 5th Congressional District — which includes parts of Brookhaven and Buckhead — for 36 years after a stint as an Atlanta City Council member.
His death, announced July 18, was confirmed by a family spokesperson. Memorial arrangements have yet to be announced.
Before becoming a lawmaker, the Democrat was already a revered member of the Civil Rights movement. A friend and colleague of Martin Luther King Jr., Lewis was an organizer and speaker at the 1963 March on Washington.
He participated in countless sit-ins, demonstrations, joined the Freedom Riders to end segregation on buses, and had his skull fractured by police during an infamous encounter on the Edmund Pettus Bridge on “Bloody Sunday” in Selma, Alabama.
Lewis , a native of Troy, Alabama, was a co-founder of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and later became its chairman, and also served as director of the Voter Education Project.
In Washington, he fought against poverty and made improving education and healthcare his top priorities among others. Lewis supported national health insurance and gay rights, and was a loud critic of U.S. involvement in the Iraq War. He famously boycotted the inauguration ceremonies of Presidents George W. Bush and Donald Trump, claiming both had been unfairly elected. In 2016, he led a sit-in at the House of Representatives to protest inaction against gun laws after the Orlando nightclub shooting.
Often called the conscience of the U.S. Congress, Lewis was known for his quote about making “good trouble” when a situation called for it. In a tweet in 2018 he said: “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.”
He also co-wrote a series of graphic novels about the civil rights movement, beginning with “March,” which won him a National Book Award.
Atlanta’s Freedom Parkway was renamed in honor of Lewis in 2018. In Brookhaven, a recently opened DeKalb County elementary school was named for Lewis.
In Sandy Springs, Lewis is remembered for championing its right to hold a vote on the proposal to incorporate the city, which was successful in 2005. In 2010, Sandy Springs officials presented him with the key to the city.
Flags on Atlanta and state grounds will be lowered to half-staff in Lewis’s honor at the orders of Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and Gov. Brian Kemp.
–John Ruch contributed