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Rep. John Lewis of Georgia dies after battle with cancer at age 80; he was civil rights champion

Rep. John Lewis, a lion of the civil rights movement of the ’60s who went on to a long and celebrated career in Congress, died Friday at age 80, after a long battle with cancer. He represented the 5th District of Georgia since 1986.

Gov. Andy Beshear ordered flags at half-staff in his honor and KET announced that it will air Great Conversations, featuring an interview with Lewis from 2013. The program will air tonight at 6/5 p.m. and will air again on Tuesday, July 21 at 7/6 p.m.

Rep. John Lewis

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) issued the following statement on the passing of Congressman John Lewis (D-GA):
“The Senate and the nation mourn the loss of Congressman John Lewis, a pioneering civil rights leader who put his life on the line to fight racism, promote equal rights, and bring our nation into greater alignment with its founding principles.

“Congressman Lewis’ place among the giants of American history was secure before his career in Congress had even begun. This son of sharecroppers in segregated Alabama helped to found and lead the mid-century Civil Rights movement. As a student in Nashville, John organized groundbreaking sit-ins at lunch counters. He was one of the 13 original Freedom Riders, assaulted and arrested for insisting on integrated bus travel. And as Chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, John helped lead and organize the entire March on Washington at age 23 and addressed the massive assembly. John Lewis risked everything. He endured hatred and violence. But he kept working, because he was convinced that our nation had to be better.

“Since 1986, Congressman Lewis brought that same spirit of service to the Capitol. You did not need to agree with John on many policy details to be awed by his life, admire his dedication to his neighbors in Georgia’s Fifth District, or appreciate his generous, respectful, and friendly bearing.

“I will never forget joining hands with John as members of Congress sang We Shall Overcome at a 2008 ceremony honoring his friend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. It could not have been more humbling to consider what he had suffered and sacrificed so those words could be sung in that place.

“Dr. King famously said “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” But progress is not automatic. Our great nation’s history has only bent towards justice because great men like John Lewis took it upon themselves to help bend it. Our nation will never forget this American hero.”

Read more about John Lewis here.

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