WASHINGTON (Reuters) – John Lewis, who died on Friday at age 80, turn out to be a hero of the U.S. civil rights motion of the Sixties who persisted beatings by white police and mobs and played an outsized role in American politics for 60 years.

FILE PHOTO: U.S. Receive. John Lewis (D-GA) waves after he speaks on the ceremony on the Lincoln Memorial honoring the fiftieth anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington, August 24, 2013. 1000’s of marchers were expected in Washington, D.C. on Saturday to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I own a dream” speech and to induce motion on jobs, voting rights and gun violence. REUTERS/Larry Downing/File Photograph

Lewis, an Alabama sharecropper’s son elected in 1986 as a Democrat to the U.S. Dwelling of Representatives from Georgia, died after a combat with pancreatic cancer.

A protege of civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr., Lewis led sit down-ins to integrate all-white lunch counters, turn out to be one in every of the distinctive “Freedom Riders” who integrated buses, and suffered a skull break whereas demonstrating for Sad voting rights in a savage beating by a nightstick-wielding white Alabama sigh trooper at some stage in an incident now known as “Bloody Sunday.”

Lewis turn out to be precise 18 when he first met King and went on to play a prime role within the civil rights motion that strove for equality for Blacks in an The usa grappling with racial bigotry and segregation, particularly within the South.

As a congressman, Lewis tangled with President Donald Trump starting up even before Trump took scheme of work. Lewis in January 2017 acknowledged he did no longer glimpse Trump as a “legitimate” president on yarn of Russian meddling within the 2016 election to enhance his candidacy. Trump drew criticism even from fellow Republicans when he known as Lewis “all talk” and “no motion.”

Lewis turn out to be contemporary at quite a lot of the civil rights motion’s seminal moments, and turn out to be the youngest speaker on the 1963 March on Washington where Martin Luther King delivered his “I Contain a Dream” speech, hoping for a land where Blacks “is perhaps no longer judged by the color of their skin nonetheless by the scream of their persona.”

Lewis, the last surviving speaker at that speech, maintained the combat for civil rights except the cease of his lifestyles. He made his last public look in June, as protests for racial justice swept the United States and the arena.

The utilization of a cane, he walked with Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser on a boulevard by the White Dwelling that Bowser had precise renamed Sad Lives Matter Plaza, which had precise been devoted with a extensive yellow mural – extensive enough to be seen from scheme – reading “Sad Lives Matter.”

Amid a national motion to abolish Confederate monuments and symbols, calls own grown rename the bridge in Selma, Alabama, where Lewis turn out to be brutally beaten at some stage in a 1965 voting rights march, for Lewis. It’s far called for Edmund Pettus, who fought within the Confederate Military and robbed African-American citizens of their honest to vote after Reconstruction.

Long before the March on Washington, Lewis helped chanced on the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), which grew to turn out to be a prominent civil rights team, and served as its president for 3 years.

He proved he turn out to be prepared to risk his lifestyles for the explanation for civil rights and non-violent sigh and arranged the first lunch-counter sit down-ins annoying carrier for Blacks at whites-finest eateries.

In 1960, at a whites-finest diner in Nashville, Tennessee, a white waitress dumped cleansing powder down his back and water on his meals. He turn out to be beaten by whites in South Carolina and Alabama at some stage in 1961 anti-segregation bus tours known as Freedom Rides. And he suffered additional injuries at some stage in “Bloody Sunday” in 1965 in Selma.

“I thought I turn out to be going to die about a times,” he acknowledged in a 2004 interview, bringing up Selma and a 1961 mob beating at a bus role in 1st viscount montgomery of alamein, Alabama. “I thought I seen loss of life, nonetheless nothing can originate me quiz the philosophy of non-violence.”

Barack Obama, the first Sad U.S. president, awarded Lewis the presidential medal of freedom, The usa’s most sensible civilian honor, in 2011.

“Generations from now, when of us verbalize their childhood what is meant by braveness, the memoir of John Lewis will technique to mind – an American who knew that modify would possibly perhaps possibly no longer watch for one more person or over but again, whose lifestyles is a lesson within the fierce urgency of now,” Obama acknowledged a White Dwelling ceremony.

Lewis turn out to be born on Feb. 21, 1940, in Troy, Alabama, when Blacks confronted segregation in all public products and providers and were successfully barred from voting within the U.S. South – where Sad slavery ended finest due to the the 1861-1865 Civil Struggle – on yarn of the notorious “Jim Crow” legal guidelines.

‘I FELT SO FREE’

Lewis plunged into the civil rights motion as a scholar at Fisk College in Nashville, where he organized the sit down-ins at segregated lunch counters.

“The Nashville sit down-ins grew to turn out to be the first mass arrest within the sit down-in motion, and I turn out to be taken to detention heart,” Lewis acknowledged.

“I’ll show you, I felt so liberated. I felt so free. I felt esteem I had crossed over. I assume I acknowledged to myself, ‘What else are you able to develop to me? You beat me. You stressed me. Now you own positioned me below arrest. You keep us in detention heart. What’s left? You would possibly perhaps possibly abolish us?’”

The “Bloody Sunday” attack took scheme when segregationist Alabama Governor George Wallace directed police to disclose evening sticks and stride gas to remain the aloof march for voting rights led by Lewis and others.

As thousands of Sad protesters crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge, sigh troopers, many on horseback, waded into the gang swinging billy clubs. Lewis turn out to be beaten so badly that his scars were visible a protracted time later when he served in Congress.

The horrific nature of the occasion impressed motion in Washington. President Lyndon Johnson days later demanded that Congress approve legislation casting off barriers to Sad voting. Lawmakers then handed the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965.

In a transferring postscript to his sigh years, Elwin Wilson, a white man who assaulted Lewis at a bus role in Rock Hill, South Carolina, in 1961, traveled to Washington in 2009 to inform regret tearfully to Lewis, who forgave him.

“That’s what the motion turn out to be continually about – to own the capacity to forgive and cross in opposition to reconciliation,” Lewis informed the Fresh York Cases in 2013 after Wilson died at age 76.

After leaving SNCC in 1966, Lewis worked for team organizations. He later turn out to be Democratic President Jimmy Carter’s likelihood to cross the federal volunteer program ACTION and he turn out to be elected to the Atlanta Metropolis Council in 1981.

Lewis lost his first poke for the Dwelling in 1977 to Democrat Wyche Fowler within the promoting campaign to interchange Andrew Younger, the first Sad elected to Congress from Georgia nowa days. Carter had picked Younger to be U.S. ambassador to the United Worldwide locations.

When Fowler headed to the Senate, Lewis defeated another civil rights figure, Julian Bond, in 1986 for the Dwelling seat representing the congressional district encompassing Atlanta.

In the Dwelling, he gathered a liberal voting memoir and turn out to be a member of the Dwelling Democratic management team.

Lewis began the 2008 marketing campaign supporting Hillary Clinton as she confronted Obama for the Democratic presidential nomination. After Obama gained Georgia’s Democratic important, Lewis switched allegiance in a key moment of the promoting campaign.

As a congressman in June 2016, Lewis used the non-violent sigh tactics he learned from King to back scheme up a 24-hour sit down-in on the Dwelling ground to push for gun retain watch over legislation following a shooting that killed Forty 9 of us at a homosexual nightclub in Orlando, Florida. The rare sigh nearly about shut down the chamber.

Lewis had one son along with his companion Lillian, who died in 2012.

Reporting and writing by Will Dunham; Additional reporting by Patricia Zengerle in Washington, Trevor Hunnicutt in Fresh York; Editing by Bill Trott, Sonya Hepinstall and William Mallard