Nation pays tribute to John Lewis one year after civil rights icon’s death

Events are taking place from Atlanta to California to honor John Lewis' legacy

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Saturday marks the one-year anniversary of the passing of civil rights icon and longtime Congressman John Lewis.

People and organizations across the country are paying tribute to and taking action in the name of Lewis.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that several candlelit vigils are scheduled in Atlanta, the city that Lewis partly represented for more than three decades in Congress, as well as several other cities around the United States. Atlanta is also featuring a John Lewis Memorial Freedom Ride for bicyclists to ride to the city’s downtown area.

Rep. John Lewis
Respected Rep. John Lewis passed away a year ago, July 17, 2020. (Photo from 2013 by Riccardo S. Savi/Getty Images for U.S. Postal Service)

In California, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and 27 other congressmen and women will gather for a ceremony to christen a U.S. Navy ship the USNS John Lewis. According to WSB-TV, the ship transfers fuel to the Navy’s carrier strike groups and is the lead ship of the T-AO Fleet Oiler Program.

“John Lewis was a true warrior for freedom, who helped transform America with his unrivaled courage, patriotism and goodness,” said Pelosi, WSB-TV reports. “It is fitting that, one year after his passing, so many of John’s friends will gather this weekend to celebrate his saintly life and to christen a naval ship bearing his name, a beautiful testament to his legacy as one of the greatest heroes of American history.”

The Hill reports that Martin Luther King III, son of the late civil rights leader Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., is honoring Lewis by launching the #ForJohn fundraising campaign to raise money for voting rights. Lewis worked and marched with King to instigate the passing of the 1965 Voting Rights Bill.

“Our democracy is under attack. Our elected officials need to recognize the urgent moment we’re in and act now to protect voting rights and ensure American democracy is upheld,” King III said. “#ForJohn will support the legacy of our family friend John Lewis and maintain pressure on Congress to pass reforms.”

Good Trouble John Lewis
(Credit: John Lewis: Good Trouble)

Tributes to Lewis began elsewhere earlier in the month. According to the Washington Post, Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser proposed on July 6 that West Education Campus, an elementary school in the northwest quadrant of the city, be renamed John Lewis Elementary School.

The school is currently named for Joseph Rodman West, a 19th-century U.S. senator and Army commander who “gave the order to torture and murder Apache chief Mangas Coloradas, who had come to meet with him to discuss terms of peace,” Bowser’s proposal stated.

D.C. Public Schools “finds that John Lewis, a lifelong champion for justice, is a far superior role model for students in the nation’s capital,” Bowser wrote. “Despite numerous attacks, injuries, and arrests, Lewis remained a devoted advocate of the civil rights movement and nonviolence.”

Lewis died on July 17, 2020, after a battle with pancreatic cancer.

He was a lifelong advocate for civil rights, including as a member of the Freedom Riders in 1961 and later, as chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.

His skull was fractured in Selma on Bloody Sunday in 1965 as he marched for voting rights. He was elected to the House in 1987 and served Georgia’s 5th congressional district until his death a year ago.

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