ATLANTA, Ga. – U.S. Rep. John Lewis has died at the age of 80.
The congressman and civil rights icon had been undergoing treatment in his battle with stage 4 pancreatic cancer.
Lewis, a Democrat, served 17 terms in the House of Representatives, representing Georgia’s 5th congressional district since 1987.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi confirmed Lewis’ death after several reports Friday night, saying “Today, America mourns the loss of one of the greatest heroes of American history: Congressman John Lewis, the Conscience of the Congress.”
Along with Martin Luther King Jr., Lewis was one of the “Big Six” civil rights activists who organized the March on Washington in 1963. Lewis was perhaps best known for leading hundreds of protesters in the Bloody Sunday march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama in 1965.
“John Lewis was a titan of the civil rights movement whose goodness, faith and bravery transformed our nation – from the determination with which he met discrimination at lunch counters and on Freedom Rides, to the courage he showed as a young man facing down violence and death on Edmund Pettus Bridge, to the moral leadership he brought to the Congress for more than 30 years," said Pelosi in a statement.
In Congress, Lewis was respected by members on both sides of the aisle as he fought for freedom and justice for all.
“In the halls of the Capitol, he was fearless in his pursuit of a more perfect union, whether through his Voter Empowerment Act to defend the ballot, his leadership on the Equality Act to end discrimination against LGBTQ Americans or his work as a Senior Member of the Ways and Means Committee to ensure that we invest in what we value as a nation," said Pelosi.
Throughout his life Lewis received numerous awards for his work and in 2011, President Barack Obama awarded Lewis the Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor in the U.S.
“Generations from now, when parents teach their children what is meant by courage, the story of John Lewis will come to mind, an American who knew that change could not wait for some other person or some other time; whose life is a lesson in the fierce urgency of now,” said Obama as he presented the medal.
This story is breaking and will be updated.