John Lewis ‘fought until the very end'

Henry Grant Lewis, the younger brother of John Lewis, speaks at a press conference at the family's home Sunday. (Photo: Steve Schaefer for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Steve Schaefer for the AJC

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Henry Grant Lewis, the younger brother of John Lewis, speaks at a press conference at the family's home Sunday. (Photo: Steve Schaefer for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Steve Schaefer for the AJC

Credit: Steve Schaefer for the AJC

Lewis family thanks world for outpouring of support

For the first time since his passing, the family of Congressman John Lewis emerged Sunday morning with stories of patience, grief and resolution, putting a personal face on a public mourning period for the longtime politician and civil rights icon.

“He fought until the very end,” said Lewis’ youngest brother, Henry Grant Lewis. “That was my big brother. He was a fighter with a tenacious spirit. But he was always gracious and kindhearted. A great man and public servant. And even greater father, husband, brother and son.”

Lewis died Friday night, seven months after he announced that he had stage 4 pancreatic cancer.

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People gather in front of the large John Lewis mural on Auburn Ave, July 18, 2020. STEVE SCHAEFER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION

People gather in front of the large John Lewis mural on Auburn Ave, July 18, 2020.  STEVE SCHAEFER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION

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People gather in front of the large John Lewis mural on Auburn Ave, July 18, 2020. STEVE SCHAEFER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION

ExploreRead the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's full coverage of the passing of John Lewis

Henry Grant Lewis did not announce any funeral arrangements, which are expected to take place across Washington, D.C., Atlanta and his place of birth, Troy, Alabama.

“While we grieve the loss of this legend, we are blessed to know that he touched so many people on every corner of the globe,” Henry Grant Lewis said.

As Henry Grant Lewis spoke, he was flanked by two of his brothers, Freddie and Samuel Lewis; his son Jerrick Lewis; and John Lewis’ son, John-Miles Lewis. All were wearing masks, reflecting the pandemic that will affect services for John Lewis.

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John Lewis, upper left and his nine brothers and sisters circa 1975. Front row L-R Rosa, Ethel, Ora Back row L-R, John, Henry, William, Samuel, Freddie, Edward and Adolph

Credit: courtesy of the Lewis family

John Lewis, upper left and his nine brothers and sisters circa 1975. 
Front row L-R Rosa, Ethel, Ora
Back row L-R, John, Henry, William, Samuel, Freddie, Edward and Adolph

Credit: courtesy of the Lewis family

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John Lewis, upper left and his nine brothers and sisters circa 1975. Front row L-R Rosa, Ethel, Ora Back row L-R, John, Henry, William, Samuel, Freddie, Edward and Adolph

Credit: courtesy of the Lewis family

Credit: courtesy of the Lewis family

ExploreThe Boy from Troy: How rural Alabama shaped John Lewis

While no funeral arrangements for Lewis have been announced, the magnitude of who he was and where he lived is likely to play a role.

He is a child of Alabama, where he was born and raised and where most of his family still lives.

He has lived in Atlanta since 1963, where he served on the Atlanta City Council and built a home with his late wife, Lillian, and their son.

And since 1986, he has been a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, rising as one of the nation’s most influential lawmakers, earning a Presidential Medal of Freedom from Barack Obama.

Last October, Lewis’ colleague Rep. Elijah Cummings became the first African American lawmaker to lie in state in the Capitol, an honor bestowed to only a few dozen statesmen, presidents and military leaders throughout U.S. history.

Henry Grant Lewis, who still lives in Troy, recalled how his brother didn’t get his driver’s license until he was well into his 40s – a story that has become part of the Lewis family lore.

“Can you imagine a 40-something-year-old learning how to drive?” asked his youngest sister Rosa Tyner.

Henry Grant Lewis said his brother would often ask him to come up from Troy to drive him around Atlanta when the congressman was in town.

He said that every time Lewis would get out of the car, he would look back in and say, “be patient little brother.”

He said a 10-minute stop at a store to get a loaf of bread would take three hours.

“Then all of a sudden it dawned on me,” Henry Grant Lewis said. “He would shake every hand. Take pictures with everybody who wanted to take pictures. That is the kind of person my brother was.”

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People left flowers and notes under the large John Lewis mural on Auburn Ave, July 18, 2020. STEVE SCHAEFER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION

Credit: Steve Schaefer

People left flowers and notes under the large John Lewis mural on Auburn Ave, July 18, 2020. STEVE SCHAEFER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION

Credit: Steve Schaefer

caption arrowCaption
People left flowers and notes under the large John Lewis mural on Auburn Ave, July 18, 2020. STEVE SCHAEFER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION

Credit: Steve Schaefer

Credit: Steve Schaefer

ExploreJohn Lewis: 1940-2020

Speaking only for about six minutes, Henry Grant Lewis offered thanks on behalf of the family for the support they have gotten since Lewis’ death.

“Remember my brother,” Henry Grant Lewis said, his voice cracking for the first time. “Keep his legacy alive, by helping anyone you see who needs help, and by making the world a more just and better place.”

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