John Lewis, the civil rights icon who risked his life for racial equality and the betterment of mankind, once said, "Do not get lost in a sea of despair. Be hopeful, be optimistic. Our struggle is not the struggle of a day, a week, a month, or a year, it is the struggle of a lifetime."

Lewis said he viewed the recent protests following the police killing of George Floyd as a continuation of his legacy. In a moving interview with GPB's The Bitter Southerner podcast, Lewis reflected on his life: “It is my hope and and my prayer that what I've tried to do will inspire another generation of young people ... to make our planet better for all of us and those that are yet to be born.” 

 

Lewis, the long-time congressman who represented Georgia's 5th congressional district, died Friday night at the age of 80 after a battle with pancreatic cancer. Here, GPB News remembers his life through photographs and his inspiring quotes.

Selma Photograph 1
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"Some of us gave a little blood for the right to participate in the Democratic process."
Credit: Spider Martin. Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.
Grant Blankenship John Lewis Stacey Abrams
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"I saw politics as a means of bringing about change. If someone had told me in 1963 that one day I would be in Congress, I would have said, 'You're crazy.'"
Credit: Grant Blankenship/GPB News

 

Magnolia Pictures 02
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"Never, ever be afraid to make some noise and get in good trouble, necessary trouble."
Credit: Danny Lyon/Magnum Photos. Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures
Grant Blankenship John Lewis children
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"We learn from our past, and we will make our future much better for all of our citizens where no one is left out or left behind because of their race or their color."
Credit: Grant Blankenship/GPB News

 

Pettus Bridge Photo
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"Some of us almost died. I almost died on that bridge in Selma, Alabama."
Credit: Alabama Department of Archives and History. Donated by Alabama Media Group. Photo by Tom Lankford, Birmingham News.
Magnolia Pictures John Lewis Church
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"In my estimation, the civil rights movement was a religious phenomenon. When we'd go out to sit in or go out to march, I felt, and I really believe, there was a force in front of us and a force behind us, 'cause sometimes you didn't know what to do."
Credit: Ben Arnon. Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures
Stephen Fowler John Lewis 01
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“It’s amazing to me when I go back to rural Alabama where I grew up or travel through parts of Georgia or other parts of the South, I feel like we’re more than lucky. We are blessed to see all of these smart young people on the move.”
Credit: Stephen Fowler/GPB News
Stephen Fowler John Lewis Mural
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“Growing up in a little town in southeast Alabama, I never would have dreamed that there would be a mural of me on the side of a building in Atlanta that is so big it could be seen from the highway."
Credit: Stephen Fowler/GPB News