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Legendary civil rights activist, Congressman John Lewis dies at 80

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BATON ROUGE- Rep. John R. Lewis, the civil rights icon who fought for racial justice in the Jim Crow south, died Friday night.

The Georgia lawmaker has been suffering from stage IV pancreatic cancer since December. He passed at his home in Atlanta at 80 years old.

Lewis served in Congress for over 30 years, pushing the causes he championed as an original Freedom Rider challenging segregation, discrimination, and injustice in the Deep South. 

Louisiana State University Political Science Professor Eugene B. Johnson offered his condolences on Twitter praised the congressman for getting into "good trouble" in his dedication to demanding justice.

"Rest In Peace to John Lewis. He spent his entire life fighting for justice and getting into "good trouble,"" Johnson said.

He worked as an organizer of the March on Washington in 1963 along with Martin Luther King Jr., a seminal monument in the Civil Rights movement that led to the passage of voting rights for Blacks two years later.

Lewis became a community activist and member of the Atlanta City Council before winning a seat in Congress in 1986.

He went on to become a bestselling author, awarded the nation's highest civilian award, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, by President Barrack Obama.

"(A)ll these years later, he is known as the Conscience of the United States Congress, still speaking his mind on issues of justice and equality," Obama said in 2011, as he placed the Medal of Freedom around Lewis. "And generations from now, when parents teach their children what is meant by courage, the story of John Lewis will come to mind – an American who knew that change could not wait for some other person or some other time; whose life is a lesson in the fierce urgency of now."

Lewis was one of the founding members of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, which advocated for civil rights with demonstrations at lunch counters and voter-registration drives.

Following four African American college students sitting at a whites-only lunch counter at a Woolworth's in Greensboro, North Carolina, in 1960, Lewis helped organize similar sit-ins around the South. Making a statement, these sit-ins drew national attention to the rampant racism in southern states.

Arrested, jailed, and beaten for challenging Jim Crow laws, Lewis would become a national figure by his early 20s. He later became the youngest of the Big Six civil rights leaders and, at 23, helped organize the March on Washington. There, he provided a keynote speech at the landmark event for civil rights.

"As it stands now, the voting section of this bill will not help the thousands of black people who want to vote," Lewis said. "It will not help the citizens of Mississippi, of Alabama and Georgia who are qualified to vote but lack a sixth-grade education. One man, one vote is the African cry. It is ours, too. It must be ours."

His death comes shortly after the release of a new documentary that's giving a new generation of civil rights activists a timely glimpse into his historic contributions.


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