John Lewis, 1940-2020

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John Lewis was an American hero.

Most people knew him as a champion of civil rights, whether as a young man marching for freedom on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma in 1965 or serving as the “conscience of the Congress” for the past 33 years. Yet John Lewis was also a dependable ally on public interest issues, a tenacious advocate of voting reform and open government, consumer protection and a healthy environment.

As activists and advocates, we valued John Lewis’ powerful personal example. When he was a civil rights activist, he was undaunted by the strike of a billy club or the threat of imprisonment. As an elected official, he was beyond reproach, incorruptible by special interests. We were fortunate to benefit from his help in 1985 in founding our Student Empowerment Training project and his memoir, “Walking with the Wind,” which is a staple of our staff book club readings.

His courage and tenacity will be missed. But as he wrote in 2018, we must not “get lost in a sea of despair.” Instead, we must “never, ever be afraid to make some noise and get in good trouble, necessary trouble.”