Updated Jul 18, 2020 - Politics & Policy

John Lewis remembered as "one of the greatest heroes of American history"

Rep. John Lewis views for the first time images and his arrest record for leading a nonviolent sit-in at Nashville's segreated lunch counters, March 5, 1963.

Rep. John Lewis in 2016 with images and arrest record for leading a nonviolent sit-in at segreated lunch counters in Nashville, Tennessee, in 1963. He tweeted in 2015, "Even though I was arrested, I smiled bc I was on the right side of history. Find a way to get in the way #goodtrouble." Photo: Rick Diamond/Getty Images

Lawmakers on both sides of the political aisle joined civil rights leaders and other leading figures in paying tribute to Rep. John Lewis, who died on Friday at age 80.

What they're saying: Former Vice President Joe Biden and Jill Biden wrote in a statement Saturday: "We are made in the image of God, and then there is John Lewis. How could someone in flesh and blood be so courageous, so full of hope and love in the face of so much hate, violence, and vengeance?"

  • "We spoke to him a few days ago for the final time. His voice still commanded respect and his laugh was still full of joy. Instead of answering our concerns for him, he asked about us. He asked us to stay focused on the work left undone to heal this nation. He was himself – a man at peace, of dignity, grace and character."
  • "He was our bridge — to our history so we did not forget its pain and to our future so we never lose our hope," Joe and Jill Biden said.

What else they're saying: Former President Bill Clinton and 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton said in a joint statement on Friday night, "We have lost a giant. John Lewis gave all he had to redeem America's unmet promise of equality and justice for all, and to create a place for us to build a more perfect union together."

  • Former President Barack Obama wrote in a blog post on Saturday morning the civil rights icon had made his life's work to "challenge an unjust status quo, and to imagine a better world."
  • The NAACP said in a statement late Friday: "His life-long mission for justice, equality and freedom left a permanent impression on our nation and world."
  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif) said in a statement Friday night that "America mourns the loss of one of the greatest heroes of American history."
"In the halls of the Capitol, he was fearless in his pursuit of a more perfect union, whether through his Voter Empowerment Act to defend the ballot, his leadership on the Equality Act to end discrimination against LGBTQ Americans or his work as a Senior Member of the Ways and Means Committee to ensue that we invest in what we value as a nation."
  • Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said in a statement early on Saturday, "our nation will never forget this American hero."
  • House Democratic Caucus Chair Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) tweeted early Saturday, "We have lost a legendary leader, civil rights icon and change agent extraordinaire. John Lewis altered the course of history and left America a much better place."
  • Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) said in a Twitter post on Saturday morning, "John Lewis was a true American hero and the moral compass of our nation. May his courage and conviction live on in all of us as we continue to make good trouble for justice and opportunity."
  • Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R), tweeted Friday night, "A civil rights icon, freedom fighter, and beloved Georgian ... Our nation will never be the same without him."
  • Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) said in a statement early on Saturday, "Congressman John Lewis was an American hero — a giant, whose shoulders upon many of us stand. Throughout his life, he showed unending courage, generosity, and love for our country. ... He carried the baton of progress and justice to the very end. It now falls on us to pick it up and march on."
  • House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said in a Twitter post on Saturday morning, "John Lewis was an extraordinary man — a patriot in the truest sense. And he was my friend."
  • Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) tweeted early on Saturday, "Tonight, the world grieves for the great John Lewis. In my 1st yr in the Senate, I had the privilege of traveling w/ John & much of the Congressional Black Caucus to Nelson Mandela’s funeral. The entire trip to Johannesburg, John regaled us w/ stories of being alongside Dr. King."
  • Julián Castro, the former HUD Secretary and 2020 candidate, tweeted late Friday, "John Lewis was a giant among men. A Civil Rights Icon, an indefatigable champion for justice, and a hell raiser known for making 'good trouble.' In mourning his passing, let us aspire to build the nation that Congressman Lewis believed it could be."

Editor's note: This article has been updated with new details throughout.

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