Veteran Democrat John Lewis Diagnosed With Pancreatic Cancer

Derek Wallbank

(Bloomberg) -- Representative John Lewis, the civil rights icon and most senior black lawmaker in Congress, said he’s been diagnosed with Stage IV pancreatic cancer.

“I have been in some kind of fight –- for freedom, equality, basic human rights -- for nearly my entire life,” the Georgia Democrat said in a statement on Sunday. “I have never faced a fight quite like the one I have now.”

Lewis, 79, was among the marchers on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, in 1965 where he suffered a skull fracture at the hands of Alabama police wielding billy clubs in what became known as “Bloody Sunday.” He was first elected to Congress in 1986 to represent an Atlanta-based district. President Barack Obama, the first black president, awarded Lewis the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011.

Lewis said he’ll return to Washington in the coming days to begin treatment, adding that he “may miss a few votes during this period, but with God’s grace I will be back on the front lines soon.”

Speaker Nancy Pelosi tweeted at Lewis that “that generations of Americans have you in their thoughts & prayers as you face this fight.”

The lawmaker’s health problems come months after former Representative John Conyers Jr. of Michigan, another of the most prominent black congressmen of the past half-century, died in October at age 90.

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