Tribute to Congressman John Lewis

The New York Women’s Bar Association (NYWBA) joins our nation in mourning the loss of Congressman John Lewis, a great leader in the movement for civil rights and human rights.  He dedicated his life to the struggle for justice and equality. As one of the original Freedom Riders, he was assaulted and arrested for his advocacy to integrate bus travel.  He helped lead the March on Washington, stood beside Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and addressed the massive crowd at just 23 years of age.  He was the last surviving speaker from that historic event.  As one of the pioneers of nonviolent civil disobedience in the fight for racial equality, Lewis organized peaceful demonstrations that were instrumental to the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

On March 7, 1965, he led one of the most famous marches in American history in support of voting rights, walking with over 600 protesters from Selma, Alabama toward the capital of Montgomery and enduring a violent attack by law enforcement officers on the Edmund Pettus Bridge, where Lewis suffered a skull fracture.  He proclaimed that “the vote is the most powerful nonviolent tool we have.”  His courage galvanized support for the Voting Rights Act.

A believer that everyone should participate in the political process, he was elected to Congress in 1986, representing the state of Georgia. He served in that office for more than three decades.
As a member of Congress, he continued to speak up against all forms of discrimination and to provide a voice for the disenfranchised.  He adopted Dr. King’s phrase “the beloved community,” signifying a world without poverty, racism, or war, and his votes in Congress reflected those values. He became known by his colleagues as “the conscience of the Congress.”

A true American hero, John Lewis transformed our nation.  He once said, “What I try to tell young people is that if you come together with a mission, and it’s grounded in love and a sense of community, you can make the impossible possible.”

His light will shine as a beacon for the next generation of leaders in the movement for civil and human rights.  May we take up his torch and carry on his legacy by continuing the fight for justice and equality, particularly protecting the right to vote for all our citizens.

Rest in power, Congressman John Lewis.