Members of the U.S. House of Representatives held a moment of silence Monday in honor of Georgia congressman and civil rights leader John Lewis, who died last week at age 80.
The veteran lawmaker and son of sharecroppers was heavily involved in the 1960s civil rights movement, from speaking at the monumental 1963 March on Washington, to marching in his native Alabama in 1965. During a Selma-to-Montgomery march that year, Lewis was beaten badly as he and other protesters attempted to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge to get to the state capital. Lewis suffered a fractured skull during the confrontation with state troopers. The violence came to be known as “Bloody Sunday.”
According to a bio about Lewis on House.gov, “news broadcasts and photographs revealing the senseless cruelty of the segregated South helped hasten the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.”
In the wake of Lewis’ death, there are calls to rename the bridge after Lewis. Edmund Pettus was a Confederate general and a Ku Klux Klan leader in Alabama.
Lewis served as the congressman for Georgia’s 5th District from his first election in 1987 until the day he died. Lewis passed away on Friday, about seven months after he was diagnosed with Stage 4 pancreatic cancer.
House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer also gave a tribute to Lewis Monday.
Hoyer said that Lewis was “a veteran legislator and person of wisdom and experience” who “still carried in his heart the same energy, optimism, and determined spirit that he bore in his youth. John never stopped being the young man who dreamed of change and knew it could be achieved.”
Hoyer concluded by stating, “He was our inspiration, he was our guide, he was our friend, he was our colleague. As I said on Saturday morning, there is a hole in the heart of America.”
Earlier, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, in an interview on the CBS television network, noted she served with Lewis for 33 years in Congress. Pelosi told CBS’s Gayle King that Lewis “challenged our conscience in so many ways in terms of equality and justice. And it was justice for all.” Pelosi also described Lewis as “a patriot.”
Separately, photos posted on Twitter showed workers putting a dark-colored drape over the door to Lewis’ Capitol Hill office, where handwritten notes had been left.
State law requires that the Georgia Democratic Party appoint a nominee to replace Lewis one business day after his death. The committee in charge of appointing a nominee has announced five finalists to replace him on the ballot in November.