The Honorable John Robert Lewis:
He Got Into “Good Trouble”
Rep. John Lewis, who as a young man was beaten to within a hair of his life as he marched with others across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama in 1965, has lost his battle against pancreatic cancer. He was 80 years old.
Rep. Lewis died near midnight on July 17, 2020, following his brother justice-fighter, the Rev. Dr. C.T. Vivian, who died at 3 a.m. that same day. The Rev. Dr. Iva Carruthers, General Secretary of the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference, Inc. (SDPC), said that Lewis had impacted her and influenced the work of the organization she leads. “We are here because people like Congressman Lewis forged the path,” she said. “I am beyond saddened at his passing. He was a true and relentless soldier for justice. I will miss him, this organization will miss him, but the world will miss him more.”
The congressman was a tenacious freedom-fighter who never lost his commitment and zeal for fighting for justice. Weeks before he died, he stood with a mask on, alongside Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, on what has now become “Black Lives Matter Plaza.” It was, he said, a beautiful piece of art.
In March of his year, Lewis marched again across the Edmund Pettus Bridge to commemorate the 55th anniversary of “Bloody Sunday,” despite still undergoing treatment for cancer. He said his health was improving, but one got the sense that he would have found a way to participate in that march, regardless of how he felt. It was on March 7, 1965, that white police officers beat him so badly, as he and others marched across that bridge, that his skull was cracked.
In telling the story of that day, Lewis would say that he was not sure he would live following the beating. But as soon as he was able, he was back on the streets, marching, protesting and working for the rights of Black people in this country.
He believed in getting into what he called “good trouble,” the “trouble” he and others got into, being beaten, thrown into jail and harassed for demanding that Black people be treated as respected human beings.
Lewis’ great-grandfather was a slave. Undoubtedly, he heard stories about his great-grandfather’s experiences, and those stories helped shape his commitment to justice. When he was elected to Congress, he noted that there were very few mentions or pictures of African Americans, and that bothered him. He began a project to make sure African Americans were seen and remembered for the work they did to build the Capitol Building and the White House. Emancipation Hall exists today because of Lewis’ work.
At the dedication of a plaque made in his image at Harvard University in 2016, Lewis quoted Dr. King: “Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. used to say, ‘True peace is not just the absence of tension but the presence of justice.’ Sometimes we have to disturb the order of things. Sometimes, we have to get in the way, or get in good trouble – necessary trouble – to bring truth to light.”
Following the death of George Floyd, Lewis recently participated in a virtual town hall with President Barack Obama, Equal Justice Initiative Executive Director Bryan Stevenson, and others. He was proud of them, he said, and he encouraged them to keep on doing the work for justice.
Lewis was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama in 2011. The president said on that day, “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.”
The SDPC joins the nation and the world in mourning the loss of this great champion for justice.
Rep. John Lewis receiving Medal of Freedom. (AP Photo)
Arrangements for the Honorable John Lewis
A week-long celebration of the life of the beloved, courageous legend will begin on Saturday, July 25, 2020 in his hometown of Troy, AL. The celebration of life will continue to Selma and Montgomery, AL, Washington, D.C. and finally to Atlanta, GA where he will be funeralized in a private ceremony at his home church, the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church and buried at South-View Cemetery.
Each stop will have a theme. Rep. Lewis’ body will lie in state r repose for public viewing in all cities. The family requests that people not travel from across the country, but pay their respects virtually, using the hashtags #BelovedCommunity or #HumanDignity. They have also asked that everyone able to attend any of the viewings to please wear a mask, whether inside or outside.
Saturday, July 25, 2020 – The Boy from Troy
A public memorial service, will be held at 10:00 a.m. CDT at Troy University’s Trojan Arena. Lewis will lie in repose 11:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. CDT at that location.
Later that evening, a service is being held at Brown Chapel A.M.E. Church in Selma. Brown Chapel was the church that attended to Lewis and other protesters in 1965 on “Bloody Sunday.” Lewis will lie in repose outside Brown Chapel 8:00 p.m. – 11:00 p.m. CDT.
Sunday, July 26, 2020 – #Good Trouble: Courage, Sacrifice & the Long March for Freedom
At 10:00 a.m. CDT, Lewis will cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge one last time. Alabama state officials will receive Lewis’ casket at the Capitol in Montgomery and he will lie in state there 3:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. CDT.
Monday and Tuesday, July 27-28, 2020 – Conscience of the Congress
A private ceremony will be held Monday, July 27, 2020 at 2:00 p.m. EDT in the Rotunda of the U. S. Capitol. Lewis will lie in state at the top of the East front steps and the public will file past on the East Plaza, Monday, 3:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m. EDT and Tuesday 8:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m. EDT.
Wednesday, July 29, 2020 – Atlanta’s Servant Leader
There will be a special service at the Georgia State Capitol Rotunda, 2:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. EDT. Lewis will lie in state there, 3:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. EDT., concluding with the Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity Omega service, 7:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.
Thursday, July 30, 2020 – A Lifetime of Service – A Celebration of Life
The private ceremony at Ebenezer Baptist Church will be at 11:00 a.m. EDT, interment at South-View Cemetery following.