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Barack Obama, Samuel L. Jackson, Ava DuVernay And More Paid Tribute To Late Civil Rights Icon John Lewis

On Friday night it was reported that John Lewis, towering civil rights icon and longtime congressman, who never lost his activist spirit, died after a six-month battle with cancer. He was 80 years old.

The son of sharecroppers, Lewis turned to activism early in life, having met both Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr. by the time he was 18. He was one of the original 13 Freedom Riders, who defied segregation on cross-country buses, participated in lunch counter sit-ins, and, at only 23, was a keynote speaker at the landmark 1963 March on Washington. He endured untold beatings, including during “Bloody Sunday,” when Lewis and fellow activist Hosea Williams led 600 marchers across the Edmund Pettis Bridge in Selma, Alabama. Lewis’ skull was fractured by the troopers who awaited them at the other side. The violence enacted on peaceful protesters shocked the nation and galvanized support for the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Lewis later entered politics, first as a member of Atlanta city council in 1981. In 1986 he was elected to represent Georgia in the House of Representatives — a position he held until his death. He never lost his activist spirit and, in 2011, was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by America’s first black president, Barack Obama.

Obama was one of many who took to Twitter to honor a legend who helped change America.

“Not many of us get to live to see our own legacy play out in such a meaningful, remarkable way. John Lewis did,” Obama wrote, followed by a link to a much longer eulogy on Medium. “He loved this country so much that he risked his life and his blood so that it might live up to its promise,” the 44th president wrote in the post. “And through the decades, he not only gave all of himself to the cause of freedom and justice, but inspired generations that followed to try to live up to his example.”

Berenice King, the youngest daughter of Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King, also paid tribute.

As did others in the political sphere.

Many in the entertainment industry also mourned his loss and celebrated his life.

John Lewis was recently the subject of a life-spanning documentary, entitled John Lewis: Good Trouble. You can rent it here.

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