Local political figures paid tribute to civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis, who died on Friday night. The outpouring of condolences was bipartisan, showing the magnitude of his influence.
Lewis was only 25 years old when he led about 600 protesters in the Bloody Sunday march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, where he was beaten by police after being knocked down as he marched ahead of the group. Lewis announced in late December 2019 that he had been diagnosed with advanced pancreatic cancer.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who confirmed Lewis had died, called him a "titan of the civil rights movement." In her statement, she lauded the work he had accomplished in Congress.
“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."
Rep. Maxine Waters, a Democrat who represents the 43rd District that includes portions of the city of L.A. and Torrance, issued a statement, which read in part:
“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."
Rep. Karen Bass, who represents the 37th District, posted on Facebook about the time she had the honor of taking Lewis on a tour of Community Coalition, a nonprofit Bass founded in South L.A.
"The world has lost a legend and the civil rights movement has lost an icon," she said in her post.
Gov. Gavin Newsom said in his statement that Lewis made the U.S. a "greater nation." He added, "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.”
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, a Republican who represents the 23rd District that includes parts of the southern San Joaquin Valley, said in a statement that it was a “true privilege to call John a friend." He also shared how the two were working together.
“I got to know John when we traveled together to Selma to cross the bridge and commemorate his famous march. I saw firsthand that he was a great leader and a committed teacher who believed in civic education and led by example. Fittingly, John’s final act of public service was also about civic education: he and I sent a letter yesterday urging more money to be spent on civics courses in elementary, middle, and high schools. Even on the last day of his life, John never stopped working to improve the lives of others."
On Saturday morning, President Donald Trump ordered all flags to be flown at half-staff on all public buildings as a "mark of respect for the memory and longstanding public service of Representative John Lewis, of Georgia."