John Lewis dead at 80: Outpouring of grief for a civil rights hero

As news swept across social media and cable news channels that John Lewis died Friday night, political leaders, celebrities and admirers weighed in with words of gratitude and grief.

Former President Barack Obama: “It’s fitting that the last time John and I shared a public forum was at a virtual town hall with a gathering of young activists who were helping to lead this summer’s demonstrations in the wake of George Floyd’s death. Afterwards, I spoke to him privately, and he could not have been prouder of their efforts — of a new generation standing up for freedom and equality, a new generation intent on voting and protecting the right to vote, a new generation running for political office. I told him that all those young people — of every race, from every background and gender and sexual orientation — they were his children. They had learned from his example, even if they didn’t know it. They had understood through him what American citizenship requires, even if they had heard of his courage only through history books.

“Not many of us get to live to see our own legacy play out in such a meaningful, remarkable way. John Lewis did. And thanks to him, we now all have our marching orders — to keep believing in the possibility of remaking this country we love until it lives up to its full promise.”

Former President George W. Bush: “Laura and I join our fellow Americans in mourning the loss of Congressman John Lewis. As a young man marching for equality in Selma, Alabama, John answered brutal violence with courageous hope. And throughout his career as a civil rights leader and public servant, he worked to make our country a more perfect union. America can best honor John’s memory by continuing his journey toward liberty and justice for all.”

Former President Jimmy Carter: “Rosalynn and I are saddened by the death of Congressman John Lewis. He made an indelible mark on history through his quest to make our nation more just. John never shied away from what he called ‘good trouble’ to lead our nation on the path toward human and civil rights. Everything he did, he did in a spirit of love. All Americans, regardless of race or religion, owe John Lewis a debt of gratitude. We send our condolences and prayers to his family and friends.”

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp: “A civil rights icon, freedom fighter, and beloved Georgian, John Lewis lost his battle with cancer today. Our nation will never be the same without him. There are no words to express the sadness that countless Americans are feeling upon learning this news. He changed our world in profound and immeasurable ways. Prayers to all of his loved ones, friends, and colleagues in this incredibly difficult time.”

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi: “Today, America mourns the loss of one of the greatest heroes of American history: Congressman John Lewis, the Conscience of the Congress. “John Lewis was a titan of the civil rights movement whose goodness, faith and bravery transformed our nation – from the determination with which he met discrimination at lunch counters and on Freedom Rides, to the courage he showed as a young man facing down violence and death on Edmund Pettus Bridge, to the moral leadership he brought to the Congress for more than 30 years.”

Former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams: “God has welcomed @repjohnlewis home. Defender of justice. Champion of right. Our conscience, he was a griot of this modern age, one who saw its hatred but fought ever towards the light. And never once did he begrudge sharing its beauty. I loved him & will miss him.”

Basketball star LeBron James: “Rest. In. Paradise John Lewis. #CivilRightsICON✊🏾 THANK YOU!!”

Former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton: “We have lost a giant. John Lewis gave all he had to redeem America’s unmet promise of equality and justice for all, and to create a place for us to build a more perfect union together. From a small farm in Alabama, to life-risking service in the civil rights movement, to three decades in Congress, he was always ‘walking with the wind,' steered by a moral compass that told him when to make good trouble and when to heal troubled waters. Always true to his word, his faith, and his principles, John Lewis became the conscience of the nation.

“Hillary and I loved John. We were blessed by his friendship, support, and wise counsel. We’ll miss him so much, but we’ll always be grateful to God for his long good life, and grateful that he lived to see a new generation of Americans take to the streets in search of his long sought ‘beloved community.‘”

Georgia U.S. Sen. David Perdue: “No one embodied the word ‘courage’ better than John Lewis. As a civil rights icon, John inspired millions of Americans to fight injustice and reject the status quo. Without a doubt, his wisdom and resolve made the world a better place. Bonnie and I join the nation in sending heartfelt prayers to John’s loved ones during this difficult time. We hope they find comfort in knowing he is at peace and that his legacy will live on for generations to come.”

Georgia U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler: “The passing of John Lewis is a devastating loss, not just for Georgia, but the entire country. Few people have the grit, tenacity or courage of John Lewis. As a leader in the civil rights movement, he always pushed America to live up to its promise of freedom and equality. Our nation is better because of his leadership and courage. We know his legacy will never be forgotten. Jeff and I join the nation in mourning this tremendous loss. May God comfort the Lewis family and their loved ones during this incredibly difficult time.”

Apple CEO Tim Cook: “We have lost an American hero. John Lewis guided us toward a more righteous world. He marched in Selma, he marched on Washington—he marched for us all. His life’s work shaped our history and his legacy inspires us to continue the march for racial equity and justice.”

Massachusetts U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren: “John Lewis was a true American hero and the moral compass of our nation. May his courage and conviction live on in all of us as we continue to make good trouble for justice and opportunity.

“Rest in power, John.”

Actress Natasha Rothwell: “He’s dancing in heaven now.”

Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates: “This is a great loss for America, and for everyone who believes in making the world a more just place. John Lewis not only saw that our country could be better--he never stopped working to make it that way. We need leaders like him more than ever.”

Actress Angela Bassett: “Oh how we will mourn your loss and yet strive to continue your fight for justice for us all! ‘We must never, ever give up! We must be brave,bold,courageous.‘”

Rev. Raphael Warnock: “Today the world lost a giant. I lost a mentor, a church member and a friend. In his youth, John Lewis wrestled with a call to ministry. But instead of preaching sermons, he became a sermon for all the world to see. He was a walking, living sermon about love, truth-telling and justice-making on the earth.

“John Lewis summoned the best within us while standing on a bridge in Selma with faith and courage. As his pastor, I was honored to be with him as he crossed his final bridge with the same faith and courage. The hero of Bloody Sunday fought for our voice and our vote. For that he will be kindly remembered by history, his deeds etched in eternity. Our lives are richer and better because John Lewis passed our way.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell: “Congressman Lewis’ place among the giants of American history was secure before his career in Congress had even begun. This son of sharecroppers in segregated Alabama helped to found and lead the mid-century Civil Rights movement. As a student in Nashville, John organized groundbreaking sit-ins at lunch counters. He was one of the 13 original Freedom Riders, assaulted and arrested for insisting on integrated bus travel. And as Chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, John helped lead and organize the entire March on Washington at age 23 and addressed the massive assembly. John Lewis risked everything. He endured hatred and violence. But he kept working, because he was convinced that our nation had to be better.

“Since 1986, Congressman Lewis brought that same spirit of service to the Capitol. You did not need to agree with John on many policy details to be awed by his life, admire his dedication to his neighbors in Georgia’s Fifth District, or appreciate his generous, respectful, and friendly bearing.”

Bernice King: “#CTVivian and #JohnLewis have journeyed on together. Two great vessels for the work of justice, including for voting rights for Black people in America. It’s not happenstance that, in this critical hour, with so much on the line in November, their lives are lifted high.”

U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath, D-Marietta: “Rarely is there an individual who sacrificed so much to make the world more just, but Congressman John Lewis did. I cannot even begin to put into words the contributions he made to the world. I love you, Congressman. May God rest your soul.”

U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter, R-Pooler: “John was a giant among men who fiercely dedicated his life to fighting for equality and justice for all. He fought this fight until the very end, and our nation is a better place because of him. There are some people in life you feel honored to meet, and John was certainly one of those people. He was and will always be an icon, and I will be forever grateful that I was able to call him a friend. His wisdom, spirit, and friendship will be deeply missed.”

Democratic Party of Georgia Chairwoman Nikema Williams: “Our country has lost a giant tonight. Congressman John Lewis was America’s greatest champion in the fight for justice and equality, and showed us all how to put the people first. His legacy of Good Trouble will ring on in generations to follow, a guiding light for those continuing to march toward a more righteous future. He was my hero and my friend, and I will miss him very much.”

Former U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson of Georgia: “I am terribly saddened by the loss of a great man. @repjohnlewis was a man of faith, who fought every battle with dignity, including his last. His legacy and the lessons he leaves behind have touched us all, and my prayers are with all who loved him. We will miss you, my friend.”

President Donald Trump: “Saddened to hear the news of civil rights hero John Lewis passing. Melania and I send our prayers to he and his family.”