Rep. John Lewis of Georgia speaks in the Morse High School gym.
Rep. John Lewis of Georgia speaks in the Morse High School gym in 2018. Photo by Ken Stone

San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer joined the chorus of elected officials paying tribute to the life of the late Georgia Congressman John Lewis Saturday, one day after the civil rights icon died at the age of 80.

“John Lewis was no stranger to San Diego. You could often spot him at Comic-Con, and he was here last year to see the USNS John Lewis, a naval ship named in his honor. He dedicated his life to civil rights, from marching with MLK to serving in Congress. America has lost a legend,” Faulconer tweeted.

In January 2016, U.S. Navy Secretary Raymond E. Mabus Jr. announced the assignment of the name John Lewis to the vessel, part of the Military Sealift Command fleet of support ships. National Steel and Shipbuilding Company began construction of the ship on Sept. 20, 2018, with completion scheduled for November of this year.

As a young man, Lewis was on the forefront of the civil rights movement of the 1960s. His beating by a state trooper while helping lead a march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala., in March of 1965 was credited with helping to spur passage of the landmark Voting Rights Act by Congress just days later.

Lewis was first elected to the House of Representatives in 1986, representing a district that included much of Atlanta. He held the seat until his death.

Lewis had announced at the end of 2019 that he had Stage 4 pancreatic cancer. He lived long enough to see a new and powerful civil rights movement spring up around the country in the aftermath of the Memorial Day death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

“It was very moving, very moving to see hundreds of thousands of people from all over America and around the world take to the streets — to speak up, to speak out, to get into what I call ‘good trouble,”‘ Lewis said on “CBS This Morning” last month.

He added that the Black Lives Matter movement “feels and looks so different” from the 1960s protest movement. “It is so much more massive and all inclusive. There will be no turning back.”

Lewis received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, from President Barack Obama in 2011.

“John Lewis was an icon. He was a liberal lion with a fierce independence and innate decency. He truly was the `conscience of Congress.’ My heart goes out to his family and his many, many friends,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein tweeted.

“John Lewis was an icon who fought with every ounce of his being to advance the cause of civil rights for all Americans. I’m devastated for his family, friends, staff — and all those whose lives he touched. My friend, thank you for showing the world what #GoodTrouble looks like,” Sen. Kamala Harris tweeted.

“My prayers are with Congressman John Lewis’ family and loved ones tonight,” said Rep. Scott Peters. “Rep. Lewis changed the course of our history through his brave activism for civil rights alongside MLK Jr. and continued his unwavering dedication to justice for all in the halls of Congress.”

President Donald Trump, a frequent target of Lewis’ criticism over the last four years, ordered flags at the White House and all military and federal government facilities nationwide to be flown at half-staff Saturday, “As a mark of respect for the memory and longstanding public service (of Lewis).”

Lewis was one of many congressional Democrats who boycotted Trump’s inauguration in 2017.

–City News Service