Civil rights icon and Georgia Rep. John Lewis, who marched in 1965 with voting rights protesters on "Bloody Sunday" in Selma, Alabama, passed away on Friday following a battle with pancreatic cancer.
In his final appearance on the 3rd hour of TODAY, Lewis, 80, shared his reaction to activists and protesters who marched across the country in the wake of George Floyd's death while in police custody.
"I said to myself, seeing like I've been down this road before, that I've been so moved and so inspired by hundreds and thousands of people — Black, white, Latino, Asian American, Native American, men, women, people of different backgrounds, from all over America and from around the world. It gives me hope that as a nation and as a people, we're going to get there, we're going to make it. We're going to survive and there will be no turning back."
The Democratic representative said he was saddened at the time but wouldn't give up hope for the future.
"(Floyd's death) made me so sad. It made me cry to see what was happening to this person of color, but to any human being. I think it sends a message that we will not give up on justice, we will not give up on fairness, that we will continue to press, and press on for what is right, for what is fair, for what is just."
Rep. Lewis also responded to the violent clashes between police and protesters in June at Lafayatte Square in Washington, D.C. He told Al, "Dr. King used to say we have a right to protest for what is right, and we did it in a peaceful, orderly and nonviolent fashion, and that's what people must be allowed to do today."
Martin Luther King III, the son of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and a community activist, joined Weekend TODAY from Atlanta on Saturday to remember Lewis' relationship with his father and Lewis' enduring legacy.
"Dad certainly admired his energy, his tenacity and he admired Dad's leadership and so that is the real relationship," King said.
"Many millions of us across the nation and the world have been inspired by John Lewis and his examples that he set for us everyday."
King weighed in on Lewis' impact on the next generation, "Clearly we're seeing more young people engaged in voting. He's the one individual that personified, more than anyone, the importance of voting."
Rep. Lewis served over 5 million people in Georgia's 5th congressional district, which includes the state's capital Atlanta.
A mural that was installed several years ago of Lewis' profile below the word, "Hero," honors the civil rights leader in downtown Atlanta.
Saturday morning in Downtown Atlanta - the heart of the district Congressman Lewis served for 17 terms. pic.twitter.com/F1S5jZW94L
— Blayne Alexander (@ReporterBlayne) July 18, 2020
Following his passing, former President Barack Obama released a statement, saying "He loved this country so much that he risked his life and his blood so that it might live up to its promise. 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."
Not many of us get to live to see our own legacy play out in such a meaningful, remarkable way. John Lewis did:https://t.co/KbVfYt5CeQ
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) July 18, 2020
The 17-term congressman announced his cancer diagnosis back in December, saying, "I have been in some kind of fight for freedom, equality, basic human rights for nearly my entire life. I have never faced a fight quite like the one I have now."