Nashville reacts to death of congressman John Lewis

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John Lewis

FILE – In this Thursday, May 10, 2007 file photo, U.S. Rep. John Lewis, R-Ga., in his office on Capitol Hill, in Washington. Lewis, who carried the struggle against racial discrimination from Southern battlegrounds of the 1960s to the halls of Congress, died Friday, July 17, 2020. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – People in Nashville are reacting to the death of Congressman and Civil Rights activist John Lewis.

The Georgia Democrat and civil rights icon, died Friday. He was 80 years old. Lewis passed seven months after a routine medical visit revealed that he had stage 4 pancreatic cancer.

Governor Bill Lee posted to Twitter in honor of Lewis’ memory.

Nashville Mayor John Cooper posted to Twitter honoring Lewis’ life.

Congressman Jim Cooper released the following statement:

I’d never met a living Saint until I met John Lewis. He lived the virtues of humility, empathy and kindness more than anyone alive today. He also dearly loved Nashville from his school days at American Baptist and Fisk. He learned his activism here and the radical strategy of non-violence taught by Rev. James Lawson. We are still far from the Beloved Community my friend John worked so hard to build, but we are much, much closer than we would have been without him.

Congressman Jim Cooper

American Baptist College also released a statement about the his passing.

This giant of a man sacrificially gave of himself, to the very end of his life, fully to the cause of
building a better America. Coming to Nashville at a young age as a student at American Baptist
College, John Lewis was captured by the dream of a world of fairness and equality, ideals of the
beloved community. Congressman Lewis has secured a prominent place in the history of
America’s “profiles in courage.” He never quit, never allowed fear of death to stop him, hate to
keep him from loving enemies to reach justice, fighting with every ounce of his humanity against
the status quo of American racial injustice.
Beginning in Nashville integrating segregated lunch counters, integrating interstate travel on the
Freedom Rides throughout the South, marching in the cradle of the Confederacy for voting
rights, his body bloodied receiving the violent blows; John Lewis never quit, never stop marching
pursuing justice.

Forrest E. Harris, ABC President

District 19 Council Member Freddie O’Connell tweeted about his own experience with Lewis.

Nashville Metro Councilwoman Nancy VanReece also posted to Twitter in honor of Lewis’ memory.

Davidson County Register of Deeds Karen Johnson released the following statement on the passing of US Rep. John Lewis:

Few lives have made the impression on our American landscape that the Honorable John Lewis did. I join all Americans in mourning him today. He brought courage as a young man who sat at a lunch counter in Nashville and crossed a bridge in Selma. He brought wisdom and a steadfast conscience to the halls of Congress. He celebrated with us as an African American family moved into the White House and wept with us as a Black man’s life slipped away under the knee of a police officer before our eyes. As we say farewell, may we do better, and may we heed the example set by John Lewis: Speak with a soft eloquence, and stand strong and sure until all are treated fairly and all have a chance.

Davidson County Register of Deeds Karen Johnson

Tennessee State University released the following statement:

Tennessee State University joins the nation in mourning the loss of civil rights icons, Congressman John Lewis and the Rev. C.T. Vivian. The world has lost two irreplaceable champions for justice and equality at a time when the pervasive effects of racial injustice and economic inequality could not be more evident. 

TSU will help to continue their legacies. The University has a deep history in the civil rights movement. Some of our alumni joined Congressman Lewis and Rev. Vivian in a nonviolent campaign to desegregate Nashville’s lunch counters during the early days of the movement. Today, our students, from around the country are leaders in their communities fighting for change. 

TSU remembers civil rights icons, Congressman John Lewis and the Rev. C.T. Vivian

It is not often that many of us awaken two morning in a row to news of the loss of pillars of our community and country. But this has happened this week as we have lost C.T. Vivian and John Lewis, who have, together, kept the quest for equality and equity moving forward. These stalwarts of Civil Rights both have strong ties to this community — through the leaders who taught them and the lessons they taught us. But for them we would not be making the great strides we are making today as we build a more perfect union … together.

The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee

ACLU released the following statement:

Congressman Lewis blazed a path forward for generation after generation of brave young people whom he taught to believe that their voices deserve to – and must be – heard. He taught us that we are never too young to lead a march, guide a movement or transform a nation. Today, as young people across the United States organize and lead peaceful protests against racial injustice and police brutality, the chorus of their voices sing a refrain that John Lewis first sang. Even as he leaves us, his presence is and will continue to be felt at each demonstration here in the city where his legendary journey began, in the region that he changed forever and across the country that he faithfully guided for nearly half his life.


United States Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) today released the following statement on the passing of Congressman John Lewis:

John Lewis’ life proves that the story of America can be, as the Rev. Ben Hooks used to say, ‘a work in progress for the better—even though we still have a long way to go.’ Sixty years ago, he was a Fisk University student in Nashville protesting laws that did not allow him to sit at lunch counters because of his race. He died a member of the United States Congress and a winner of the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Tennesseans are grateful that he helped us understand better the meaning of equal opportunity.

United States Senator Lamar Alexander

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