Images of his beating at Selma shocked the nation and led to swift passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. He was later called the conscience of the Congress.
Post automatically merged:
When the House voted in December 2019 to impeach President Trump, Mr. Lewis’s words rose above the rest. “When you see something that is not right, not just, not fair, you have a moral obligation to say something,” he said on the House floor. “To do something. Our children and their children will ask us, ‘What did you do? What did you say?’ For some, this vote may be hard. But we have a mission and a mandate to be on the right side of history.”
When he was younger, his words could be more militant. History remembers the March on Washington for Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, but Mr. Lewis startled and energized the crowd with his own passion.
“By the force of our demands, our determination and our numbers,” he told the cheering throng that August day, “we shall splinter the segregated South into a thousand pieces and put them together in the image of God and democracy. We must say: ‘Wake up, America. Wake up!’ For we cannot stop, and we will not and cannot be patient.”
Mr. Lewis was arrested 40 times from 1960 to 1966. He was repeatedly beaten senseless by Southern policemen and freelance hoodlums. During the Freedom Rides in 1961, he was left unconscious in a pool of his own blood outside the Greyhound Bus Terminal in Montgomery, Ala., after he and others were attacked by hundreds of white people. He spent countless days and nights in county jails and 31 days in Mississippi’s notoriously brutal Parchman Penitentiary.
In 2017 he boycotted Mr. Trump’s inauguration, questioning the legitimacy of his presidency because of evidence that Russia had meddled in the 2016 election on Mr. Trump’s behalf.
That earned him a derisive Twitter post from the president: “Congressman John Lewis should spend more time on fixing and helping his district, which is in horrible shape and falling apart (not to mention crime infested) rather than falsely complaining about the election results. All talk, talk, talk — no action or results. Sad!”
David Halberstam, then a reporter for The Nashville Tennessean, later described the scene: “The protests had been conducted with exceptional dignity, and gradually one image had come to prevail — that of elegant, courteous young Black people, holding to their Gandhian principles, seeking the most elemental of rights, while being assaulted by young white hoodlums who beat them up and on occasion extinguished cigarettes on their bodies.”