In Memoriam

R.I.P. Congressman John Lewis: February 21, 1940 — July 17, 2020. Thank You for the “Good Trouble.”

Celeste Fremon
Written by Celeste Fremon

“We’re going to have generations for years to come that will be prepared to get in trouble, good trouble, necessary trouble.”

Congressman John Lewis died Friday, July 17, 2020, of pancreatic cancer.  He was 80 years old.

For many Americans, the loss feels incalculable.

As we absorb the news of his death, the videos below — and Lewis’s own tweet from ten days ago — provide some brief moments in his own words, allowing us to be reminded of the towering civil rights icon, the relentless opponent of injustice, the man who represented the 5th district of Georgia in the House of Representatives from 1987 until he died, whom his colleagues called the “conscience of the Congress.”

At 21, he was one of the thirteen original Freedom Riders, getting assaulted and repeatedly arrested as they traveled by bus challenging segregation, discrimination, and injustice in the Deep South.  At age 25, together with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Lewis was among the small group that led around 600 marchers demonstrating for voters rights across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, on what became known as Bloody Sunday.  That day he was beaten badly and nearly killed by state troopers who left him on the ground unconscious with a fractured skull.

Yet Lewis always refused to despair.

“We were beaten, we were tear-gassed. I thought I was going to die on this bridge. But somehow and some way, God almighty helped me here. We cannot give up now. We cannot give in. We must keep the faith, keep our eyes on the prize.”

He didn’t fight for himself, all these years, said those who knew him well.  He fought for the soul of the nation.

“When you see something that is not right, we have a moral obligation to say something, to do something. Our children and their children will ask us ‘What did you do? What did you say?'”

Rest in power, John Lewis. Thank you for teaching us the necessity of getting into #goodtrouble. We are grateful to you beyond expression.

7 Comments

  • An optimistic, brave and good man dedicated to justice. He espoused non-violence and fought for change in a manner that should be an example for all. Rest in peace Mr. Lewis.

  • Initially, his heart may have been in the right place. However, as time progressed his values diminished, as did his integrity and principles.

    Just recently he and his wife were/are being investigated for the comingling of funds for a business which his wife was responsible for. The man was corrupt.

    The irony, initially was a staunch supporter of civil rights. Nonetheless, he becomes a member of the Democratic party which was the party of slavery, the KKK and Jim Crow laws.

    • “…Which was the party of slavery, the KKK, and jim Crow laws.”

      True enough.

      But all of that right now is fueling feelings of “White Guilt”–that can be Googled if you don’t know what it means–thereby creating a whole set of new problems, like the idea of “Defunding the Police.”

    • With all due respect Mr Rolman, the man’s entire life was dedicated to justice. There is no question where his heart was – it would have been much easier to not be so vocal and not be arrested so often.

      I have never read that he was under investigation for anything serious and I believe that his wife died eight years ago. Please share what proof you have that he was corrupt.

      • Good point!!!

        NOBODY reaches eighty years of age–please! please! Don’t look at my life–without having done something blameworthy in his life, but John Lewis did.

        And it showed.

        • Exactly, John Lewis was good for America.

          The naysayer always have some negative to say.

          Power to the people!

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