Philly region remembers civil rights icon, congressman John Lewis

Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., in his office on Capitol Hill

In this Thursday, May 10, 2007 file photo, U.S. Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., in his office on Capitol Hill, in Washington. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Civil rights icon John Lewis, often referred to as the conscience of the U.S. House, is being remembered in the Philadelphia area as an American hero. Lewis died on Friday, several months after disclosing he had pancreatic cancer.

“The loss of Congressman Lewis is an enormous one. However, I am grateful that he was able to keep making a difference in our country right through the age of 80. He leaves an example and a legacy for me, for the Congressional Black Caucus, for all members of Congress,” read a statement from U.S Rep. Dwight Evans of Philadelphia, who worked alongside Lewis on the Ways and Means Committee.

Evans said he draws inspiration from this quote of Lewis:

“If you’re not hopeful and optimistic, then you just give up. You have to take the long hard look and just believe that if you’re consistent, you will succeed.”

U.S. Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey posted on Twitter that his “heart is saddened.”

“Last night John Lewis died, but for 80 years he showed us how to truly live,” Booker wrote. “Our hero is with God. May we be his legacy. May we love as courageously; serve as humbly; and until justice rolls down like water, may we always cause Good Trouble.”

Rev. Robert Collier, president of Black Clergy of Philadelphia and Vicinity said, “We mourn the loss of Congressman John Lewis. He was a civil rights giant and we shall miss him terribly, but we shall do our best to carry on his legacy.”

Collier said when he preaches Sunday at Galilee Baptist Church in Roxborough, he will remember Lewis.

“In my lifetime I have witnessed many giants of the civil rights movement, Medgar Evers, Dr. Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, Ralph Abernathy, I count John Lewis among those drum majors for equality,” Collier said.

U.S. Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester, the first African American to represent Delaware in Congress, said she will remember Lewis for encouraging others to “never give up.”

“For his entire life and career, John Lewis never gave up. He never gave in,” Blunt Rochester said in a statement. “He kept the faith and kept his eyes on the prize. He marched and he organized — inspired and legislated. He got into good trouble — lots of good trouble.”

Delaware Gov. John Carney tweeted a memory of visiting sites of important civil rights demonstrations and events in Alabama, where Lewis grew up.

“He was a civil rights icon and a living saint,” Carney said.

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney called Lewis “an icon, a leader, and one of its purest souls.”

“John Lewis spent his entire life dedicated to the pursuit of freedom and justice — inspiring many of us along his journey. Now, it is up to each of us to carry on his legacy,” Kenney said.

Another Philly leader, West Philly City Councilmember Jamie Gauthier, also chimed in on the longtime Georgia congressman’s legacy.

“From a young age, Rep. John Lewis dedicated himself to the fight for racial justice — demonstrating incredible bravery and determination in the face of oppression. He was a true hero, and he will be missed dearly,” Gauthier tweeted.

In 2016, when Lewis accepted the Liberty Medal at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, he said he did not have any designs on becoming influential or powerful when he began working for civil rights.

“I never tried to win any award. My plan wasn’t to seek fame or fortune. All I wanted to do is to help out — to do what I could to help make this country and the world community a little bit better. More just, a little bit more peaceful, for all of its citizens,” he said.

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