Connecticut leaders joined Saturday in mourning civil rights icon and longtime congressman John Lewis, who died Friday at age 80.
“There are no words to describe the pain that many Americans are feeling across the country this morning, waking up to the news that our conscience, our friend, our inspirational leader, John Lewis has passed away,” said Rep. John Larson in a statement. “I am heartbroken.”
All seven members of Connecticut’s congressional delegation recognized Lewis’s passing Saturday, as did Gov. Ned Lamont, who directed that flags in the state be lowered to half-staff.
“On behalf of the State of Connecticut, I thank Congressman Lewis for the decades of service he gave to our nation, and the impact he made throughout the entire country in the ongoing effort to bring positive change in the face of injustice,” Lamont said in a statement. “He leaves behind a legacy that will forever inspire us in immeasurable ways. He is an icon and a hero, and his passing is a terrible loss for our country.”
Lewis was a key figure in the civil rights movement of the 1960s, as a founder and leader of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, an original Freedom Rider and an organizer of the 1963 March on Washington. In 1965, he was famously bloodied by police as he led marchers across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala. in support of voting rights.
He was elected to Congress in 1986 and served Georgia’s fifth congressional district through his death.
“The impact John Lewis has had on our country cannot be overstated,” Rep. Rosa DeLauro said in a statement. “In his over three decades in Congress, John Lewis carried with him the ideas laid forth by Martin Luther King Jr. — ‘the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.’ John worked toward achieving that justice every single day as a member of the House of Representatives, and the United States of America is better off for it.”
Nationally, elected officials, activists, celebrities and regular citizens alike mourned Lewis, with some calling for the Edmund Pettus Bridge to be re-named in his honor.
The NAACP, in a statement, said Lewis “fought harder and longer than anyone in our nation’s continuing battle for civil rights and equal justice.”
“If we know anything about our dear friend John Lewis, he wanted us to continue the battle for full participation in a democracy that he began long ago with other civil rights icons,” the organization said. “On November 3, we can and must honor our beloved John Lewis by casting our ballot and ensuring that our vote is counted, up and down the ballot.”
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