Remembering John Lewis

By Nectar Gan, Brett McKeehan, Amy Woodyatt, Veronica Rocha, Alaa Elassar and Amir Vera, CNN

Updated 8:25 PM ET, Sat July 18, 2020
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8:17 p.m. ET, July 18, 2020

The life of John Lewis

John Lewis at the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama.
John Lewis at the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama.

Rep. John Lewis died Friday at 80 years old. Lewis was the son of sharecroppers who survived a brutal beating by police during a landmark 1965 march in Selma, Alabama, to become a towering figure of the civil rights movement and a longtime US congressman.

We're wrapping up our live coverage, but if you are looking for more on Lewis' life and career, you can ...

7:02 p.m. ET, July 18, 2020

New York mayor calls Lewis "a saint who walked among us"

From CNN’s Ganesh Setty

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio spoke at a community peace march in Brooklyn on Saturday, where he described Rep. John Lewis as "a saint who walked among us."

"I have to tell you that my family and I met John Lewis in December when he was last in New York City. And if you want to think about a saint who walked among us, a man who did so much to change this nation, and never stopped. He told us what it was like as a young man growing up with hatred and discrimination around him and how he never let it defeat him, and he kept working until the age of 80 to change this country for the better. He knew it could change and it must change. Let’s remember the power of John Lewis," De Blasio said.

The mayor then led the crowd in a moment of silence and round of applause for Lewis and then spoke of the Rev. C.T. Vivian, another leader of the civil rights movement who died on Friday.

"We lost another giant as well, C.T. Vivian, may he rest in peace," de Blasio said.

5:22 p.m. ET, July 18, 2020

At least 21 states flying flags at half-staff for Lewis

CNN's Kay Jones, Kristina Sgueglia, Chenelle Terry, Cara-Lynn Clarkson, Ganesh Setty and Hollie Silverman

At least 21 states are flying flags at half-staff for Rep. John Lewis. 

Lewis died Friday at age 80 after a long battle with cancer. 

Here are the states with flags flying at half-staff:

  • Alabama
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Georgia
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Kentucky
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Michigan
  • Montana
  • Nebraska
  • New Jersey
  • North Dakota
  • Ohio
  • Rhode Island
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Washington
  • West Virginia
4:38 p.m. ET, July 18, 2020

Sports world pays tribute to Lewis

From CNN's Wayne Sterling

Tributes from across the sports world poured in Saturday in memory of John Lewis.

Here are some of them:

Baseball Hall of Famer Hank Aaron 

"John and I connected to the roots. By that I mean we were born and grew up in the highly racist and segregated South, in the state of Alabama. He committed his life to the struggle for justice and equality for all people. He was one of the great civil rights icons and led a life of service for the betterment of all mankind. We have lost a giant of a man."

Los Angeles Clippers head coach Doc Rivers

"Really sad day for our country. What's amazing is when you think about right now, some of the stuff that John Lewis was fighting for, we're still fighting for. Voter suppression right now is at an all-time high. It's amazing how hard — we have a group of people who are trying to get people not to vote. Latinos, Blacks, and young people are the targets. That's who they're trying to get not to vote."

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell

"The National Football League mourns the loss of an American hero and icon, Congressman John Lewis. Congressman Lewis devoted his life to advancing the causes of freedom, justice and equality for all. His leadership and courage helped to transform our nation, making it more just. We extend our condolences to his family, friends, colleagues and constituents and join them in celebrating his full life, his storied journey, and his unparalleled legacy."

MLB's Atlanta Braves

"The country has lost an icon who championed for equality and justice, who refused despair and preferred optimism and hope. Our city and our country are mourning, but his words and actions will live forever. Rest in peace."

WNBA's Atlanta Dream

"The entire Atlanta Dream organization grieves the loss of Rep. John Lewis. He was an American hero who represented our community with dignity and class. He will be missed but his legacy will live on."

NBA's Atlanta Hawks

"The Atlanta Hawks mourn the loss of Congressman John Lewis. Last night, our city and country lost one of its heroes and most important civil rights icons who was highly regarded for his nearly six decades of social activism and getting into ‘good trouble.' He continued to inspire so many with his courage, sacrifice and unwavering dedication to the highest ethical standards and moral principles. His legacy will forever be remembered throughout the city’s peaceful protests to fight racial inequality in the 1960s, and our nation will be forever indebted to him for his lifelong dedication to public service. The entire Hawks organization sends their deepest condolences to Mr. Lewis’ family and his friends."

Retired NBA star Earvin Magic Johnson

4:31 p.m. ET, July 18, 2020

Flags in Atlanta will be flown at half-staff until further notice, mayor says

From CNN's Hollie Silverman 

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms ordered all flags in the city to be flown at half-staff "until further notice" in honor of Rep. John Lewis.

Lewis died Friday at age 80 after a long battle with cancer. He has been in Congress since 1987 representing Georgia's 5th District. which includes part of Atlanta.

"America knew him as a Civil Rights Icon, Congressional Giant, and a moral compass, but I knew him as a friend," Bottoms said. "The people of Atlanta often called upon Congressman Lewis for counsel, guidance, and assistance with getting into good trouble. No matter how busy his schedule, or important his Washington duties were, he answered. We were privileged to be represented by a leader with both a pure heart and an unshakable commitment to human rights. As we persevere in the modern fight for social justice, we should honor his legacy by continuing to hold on to hope."
4:27 p.m. ET, July 18, 2020

Rep. Jim Clyburn remembers his "personal friend" John Lewis and calls for Congress to pass new voting rights bill in his memory

From CNN's Nicky Robertson

Democratic Rep. Jim Clyburn spoke to CNN’s Ana Cabrera Saturday afternoon on the passing of John Lewis.

I was prepared for this," Clyburn said of his "personal friend" and colleague. "But nevertheless, it is something that gives you a strange emptiness. Knowing full well that I will return to Washington, I won't see him, and I will never get to sit with him again."

Clyburn responded to the President tweeting two sentences about the former congressman and civil rights icon, saying, "I would say, to the president, and I would say to the Majority Leader in the Senate, your deeds, let's do something, in John's honor. Your words will be empty without deeds."

Clyburn said the House should pass the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act of 2020 this week and send to the Senate.

If President Trump really wants to honor John Lewis, a genuine hero, a Black Lives Matter icon, and my personal friend, do it by signing the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act of 2020," Clyburn said.

Clyburn said he would love to see the President rename the Edmund Pettus Bridge after Lewis. The bridge in Selma, Alabama, was where Lewis and other protesters were beaten in 1965 by Alabama state troopers as they attempted to march from Selma to Montgomery to protest the lack of voting rights for Black Americans. The event is known as "Bloody Sunday."

"I would love to see him rename that bridge, because you know it's named for a grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan and for them to rename that bridge, in John's honor, would be great," Clyburn said.  

2:49 p.m. ET, July 18, 2020

Oprah Winfrey shares one of her last conversations with John Lewis

From CNN's Alaa Elassar

Talk show host Oprah Winfrey shared on Twitter a video interview she had with Rep. John Lewis a week before he died. In the video, which she posted Saturday, Winfrey asked Lewis how he felt about the impact he has had on the world.

"Last week when there were false rumors of Congressman John Lewis’ passing, Gayle [King] and I called and were able to speak with him. He sounded weak but was surprisingly more alert than we expected," Winfrey tweeted.

"I had a final chance to tell him what I’ve said every time I’ve been in his presence: 'Thank you for your courage leading the fight for Freedom. My life as it is would not have been possible without you.'"

Lewis shared with Winfrey stories of him being young and his mother warning him not to get into trouble when he began questioning the "White" and "Colored" signs he would see around town.

"She would say again, 'Don't get in trouble. You will be beaten. You will go to jail. You may not live.' But one day I heard of Rosa Parks, heard the words of Martin Luther King Jr. on the radio. The words of Dr. King and the actions of Rosa Parks inspired me to get in trouble. And I've been getting in trouble ever since," the freedom fighter and civil rights legend told Winfrey.

"I just tried to do what I felt was right, fair, and just."

2:16 p.m. ET, July 18, 2020

Trump says he's "saddened" to hear about Lewis' death

From CNN's Jason Hoffman

President Trump on Saturday said he was "saddened to hear" about Rep. John Lewis' death.

This is the first personal reaction from the President on the passing of Lewis outside of a brief mention of the late congressman’s “public service” in the proclamation ordering flags to half-staff.

2:04 p.m. ET, July 18, 2020

Lewis' death renews calls to rename Edmund Pettus Bridge

From CNN’s Nicky Robertson and Veronica Stracqualursi

Jeremy Moorhead/CNN
Jeremy Moorhead/CNN

The death of Rep. John Lewis on Friday has renewed calls to rename the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, after the civil rights icon.

The push to rename the bridge comes amid a national conversation around monuments, names and symbols that celebrate the Confederacy and their place in America today. The bridge’s namesake, Edmund Pettus, was a Confederate general and leader of the Ku Klux Klan in Alabama.

At age 25, Lewis helped lead the 1965 march for voting rights on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, where he and other marchers were met by heavily armed state and local police who brutally beat them with clubs, fracturing Lewis' skull. The day became known as "Bloody Sunday" and galvanized Americans’ support for the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

An organization petitioning for the name change, “John Lewis Bridge Project,” said in part in a statement following Lewis’ death: “He dedicated his life to the pursuit of unconditional love and equality for all Americans. His legacy is our legacy, his story is our story.” The petition on had more than 400,000 signatures as of Saturday afternoon. 

“John Lewis was alive long enough to hear us start this process, unfortunately he is no longer with us and won’t see us finish this. But we will finish this,” the project’s founder Michael Starr Hopkins said in an interview on MSNBC Saturday morning.

The movement also picked up steam on social media.

The Lincoln Project, a super PAC formed by anti-Donald Trump Republicans, quoted a tweet from Preet Bharara that showed Lewis standing before the bridge, saying, “Abe stands with my friend Preet. Let’s honor this good man by renaming the bridge.”