WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 25:  U.S. Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) listens during a news conference September 25, 2017 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. Reps Lewis was joined by Demetrius Nash, who took a walk from Chicago to Washington, to discuss gun violence.  (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
CNN  — 

Civil rights icon and Democratic Rep. John Lewis is endorsing Joe Biden, promising to campaign for the former vice president and saying that “we need his leadership now more than ever before.”

“He has been a friend, a dear friend. He’s a man of courage, a man with a great conscience, a man of faith,” Lewis said in a call with reporters. “He will be a great president. He will lead our country to a better place. He would inspire another generation to stand up, to speak up and to speak out, to be brave and to be bold.”

Lewis is among the most revered African American members of Congress and a leader of the civil rights movement. In 1965, he was among the demonstrators marching for voting rights from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, a day that became known as “Bloody Sunday.” Lewis, 25 at the time, had his skull fractured by white police officers who beat marchers crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma that day.

“Joe Biden would not be afraid to stand up and preach the way of peace, the way of love, will not be afraid to preach the fight that we must respect the dignity and the worth of every human being,” he added. “He can help us and will help us regain our way as a nation and as a people.”

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In his call with reporters, the 80-year-old Democratic congressman acknowledged his health troubles after being diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer last year but insisted he will actively campaign for the former vice president.

“I have a few health problems now, but they will not be with me forever. I plan to travel around America to support him and be able to speak up and speak out for him,” he said. “I know what it is to campaign hard and to work hard, and I will be out there working and campaigning for Joe Biden as president of the United States of America.”

The endorsement from the influential African American leader comes as Biden leads in the delegate count over Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont. Lewis made the endorsement more than a month before his state’s Democratic primary. Georgia’s contest was initially scheduled for March 24 but was delayed until May 19 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Lewis stressed the need for Americans to vote during these trying times, saying, “We cannot find an excuse not to vote. We must make it easy, simple and convenient for all of our citizens to participate in the democratic process.”