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Tributes Pour In For Civil Rights Icon John Lewis

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — Tributes were pouring in from local and national politicians praising the life of the late civil rights icon John Lewis who died at the age of 80.

Lewis dedicated his life to fighting for a more just and equal nation. He passed away Friday night following a battle with pancreatic cancer.

Statement from California Gov. Newsom:

"We are a greater nation today because a young man in Alabama decided to devote his life to making 'good trouble.' On the front lines of America's struggle for justice, a young John Lewis literally shed some blood for the rights that we hold dear, daring to make real our nation's founding promise. In his eight decades on earth, including distinguished service in the halls of Congress, he was a living, breathing reminder that all of us have the capacity to be a force for good. Congressman Lewis's legacy continues in our unceasing work to protect the right to vote and expand opportunity for all, and his spirit lives on in everyone fighting for a better, fairer America. We will hold Congressman Lewis in our hearts as we continue our march towards freedom and equality for all."

Statement from Rep. Maxine Waters:

"Today is a sad day in American history. We have lost my dear friend and colleague of nearly three decades, Congressman John Robert Lewis.

"John Lewis was a revered civil rights icon who dedicated his entire life to what became his signature mantra, making 'good trouble.' Despite being one of the youngest leaders of the Civil Rights Movement, John Lewis galvanized and inspired hundreds of his peers to join in the fight for equal rights. He was a founder and leader of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee; he organized and led countless marches and freedom rides across the Jim Crow South; and he worked alongside Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in the struggle to secure the right to vote and end the demoralizing discrimination, unconscionable violence, and debilitating poverty facing Africans Americans.

"Very few people could have been harassed, arrested more than 40 times, beaten within inches of their lives, and still espouse Dr. King and Mahatma Gandhi's teachings of nonviolence, peace, and love. However, these principles were core philosophies to John Lewis, and our nation is forever indebted to him for his humble sacrifices.

"It was John Lewis, clad in a trench coat and a backpack, who fearlessly led 600 people to march from Selma, Alabama across the Edmund Pettus Bridge to Montgomery, Alabama in support of voting rights. At the bridge John Lewis and the marchers were confronted by local police and Alabama State Troopers and ordered to turn around. When they refused, the police shot tear gas and began beating the nonviolent protesters. John Lewis' skull was cracked open by a state trooper's club, and this painful episode became known as 'Bloody Sunday.' John Lewis' sacrifices and bravery on the Edmund Pettus Bridge absolutely led to the passage of the Voting Rights of 1965 shortly thereafter, and I am so proud to have joined him in Selma numerous times over the course of our careers to recognize his sacrifices on that bridge and the ongoing fight to protect the right to vote for African Americans and people of color.

"John Lewis was first elected to Congress in 1986, and he served 17 terms. He distinguished himself as an effective policymaker and true progressive who was relentless in his fight on behalf of the least of these. As a result, he earned the respect of not only his colleagues on both sides of the aisle, but elected officials and leaders around the world.

"It was the honor of my life to serve alongside such a kind, courageous, and persistent leader and public servant. I considered John and his late wife, Lillian, dear friends, and my heart is heavy with the magnitude of the loss of one of our nation's most beloved sons. My sincere prayers and deepest sympathies are with his son, John Miles Lewis, family, friends, staff, and constituents during this difficult time."

Statement from President Bill Clinton and Secretary Hillary Clinton:

"We have lost a giant. John Lewis gave all he had to redeem America's unmet promise of equality and justice for all, and to create a place for us to build a more perfect union together.

"From a small farm in Alabama, to life-risking service in the civil rights movement, to three decades in Congress, he was always "walking with the wind," steered by a moral compass that told him when to make good trouble and when to heal troubled waters. Always true to his word, his faith, and his principles, John Lewis became the conscience of the nation.

"Hillary and I loved John. We were blessed by his friendship, support, and wise counsel. We'll miss him so much, but we'll always be grateful to God for his long good life, and grateful that he lived to see a new generation of Americans take to the streets in search of his long sought 'beloved community.'

"Our hearts go out to his son John-Miles and the entire Lewis family, his able loyal staff, and all who loved and admired him the world over."

Statement by Vice President Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden:

"We are made in the image of God, and then there is John Lewis.

"How could someone in flesh and blood be so courageous, so full of hope and love in the face of so much hate, violence, and vengeance? Perhaps it was the Spirit that found John as a young boy in the Deep South dreaming of preaching the social gospel; the work ethic his sharecropper parents instilled in him and that stayed with him; the convictions of nonviolent civil disobedience he mastered from Dr. King and countless fearless leaders in the movement; or the abiding connection with the constituents of Georgia's 5th District he loyally served for decades.

"Or perhaps it was that he was truly a one-of-a-kind, a moral compass who always knew where to point us and which direction to march.

"It is rare to meet and befriend our heroes. John was that hero for so many people of every race and station, including us. He absorbed the force of human nature's cruelty during the course of his life, and the only thing that could finally stop him was cancer. But he was not bitter. We spoke to him a few days ago for the final time. His voice still commanded respect and his laugh was still full of joy. Instead of answering our concerns for him, he asked about us. He asked us to stay focused on the work left undone to heal this nation. He was himself – a man at peace, of dignity, grace and character.

"John's life reminds us that the most powerful symbol of what it means to be an American is what we do with the time we have to make real the promise of our nation – that we are all created equal and deserve to be treated equally. Through the beatings, the marches, the arrests, the debates on war, peace, and freedom, and the legislative fights for good jobs and health care and the fundamental right to vote, he taught us that while the journey toward equality is not easy, we must be unafraid and never cower and never, ever give up.

"That is the charge a great American and humble man of God has left us. For parents trying to answer their children's questions about what to make of the world we are in today, teach them about John Lewis. For the peaceful marchers for racial and economic justice around the world who are asking where we go from here, follow his lead. For his fellow legislators, govern by your conscience like he did, not for power or party. He was our bridge – to our history so we did not forget its pain and to our future so we never lose our hope.

"To John's son, John Miles, and to his family, friends, staff, and constituents, we send you our love and prayers. Thank you for sharing him with the nation and the world.

"And to John, march on, dear friend. May God bless you. May you reunite with your beloved Lillian. And may you continue to inspire righteous good trouble down from the Heavens."

Statement from Mark Ridley Thomas:

"This evening we lost one of the greatest heroes of our time, civil rights icon John Lewis. Avis and I send our most heartfelt thoughts and prayers to the Lewis family.

"In the face of the evils of segregation, his bravery and sacrifice as a young man, for years putting his body and freedom on the line as an activist, helped to change the world as we know it. While his journey may have become known to many on that fateful day on the Edmond Pettis bridge in Selma, Alabama, we pay homage and owe a debt of gratitude for his Freedom Rides, his words of inspiration during the March on Washington, and carrying on Dr. King's quest to build "the Beloved Community"—a world without poverty, racism or war—long thereafter.

"John Lewis was the embodiment of hope and was rightfully our nation's collective conscience during his 30-years of service. He will be remembered lovingly and fondly by us all as a shining light no matter the pitch of darkness. And we will hold true to his words, written just a few short years ago to "not get lost in a sea of despair. Be hopeful, be optimistic. Our struggle is not the struggle of a day, a week, a month, or a year it is the struggle of a lifetime. Never, ever be afraid to make some noise and get in good trouble, necessary trouble.

"Rest in power, John."

Statement from Senator Kamala Harris:

"Congressman John Lewis was an American hero—a giant, whose shoulders upon many of us stand. Throughout his life, he showed unending courage, generosity, and love for our country.

"As the son of sharecroppers in Alabama, John Lewis' courage and vision placed him at the forefront of the civil rights movement. As the youngest speaker at the 1963 March on Washington, John Lewis knew the importance of bringing people together for an America that lives up to its ideals of liberty and equality for all.

"It was an honor to once again join Congressman Lewis this year in Selma, Alabama in March for what would be his final walk across the Edmund Pettus Bridge, where just 55 years ago, Lewis was among those beaten by state troopers as they bravely marched from Selma to Montgomery for the right to vote. I was moved by his words: 'On this bridge, some of us gave a little blood to help redeem the soul of America. Our country is a better country. We are a better people, but we have still a distance to travel to go before we get there.'

"We are grateful that John Lewis never lost sight of how great our country can be. He carried the baton of progress and justice to the very end. It now falls on us to pick it up and march on. We must never give up, never give in, and keep the faith.

"I will always cherish the quiet conversations we shared together when he inspired me to fight for the ideals of our beloved country. My prayers are with John Lewis' family, loved ones, and the nation as we grieve this tremendous loss."

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