WASHINGTON D.C. — Mourners gathered by the thousands around the U.S. Capitol this week, waiting in long lines to pay their respects to the late Rep. John Lewis of Georgia.
Some honored his legacy as a civil rights icon by wearing masks or shirts emblazoned with the Black Lives Matter emblem. A few even had on accessories with one of his famous quotes — “Get in Good Trouble” — scrolled across the front.
Lewis died July 17 at age 80 from pancreatic cancer. The Democratic congressman, who served for more than 30 years in the House of Representatives, lay in state in the Capitol Rotunda before being buried in Atlanta. In the days since his passing, tributes have poured in from activists and lawmakers nationwide.
In Silicon Valley, Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, pledged this week to propose an amendment to increase funding for pancreatic cancer research in Lewis’ memory. Eshoo is the co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on the Deadliest Cancers.
The Bay Area congresswoman also submitted a formal statement for the House record to commemorate his life.
“John Lewis revered the sanctity of the right to vote and he was willing to die for it,” it states. “He was at the vanguard of the struggle for equal voting rights and made history during the Selma to Montgomery marches when he led activists across the Edmund Pettus Bridge and was savagely beaten during Bloody Sunday. Eight days later, President Lyndon Johnson addressed a joint session of Congress to call for the passage of the Voting Rights Act, which would be signed into law within five months.”
Eshoo further praised the late congressman’s commitment to education, gun control and affordable health care, and said future generations would be inspired by his faith and courage.
Other Silicon Valley legislators have shared their admiration for Lewis this week on social media.
Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Fremont, said it was impossible to fully convey Lewis’ power and magnitude.
“He was a beacon of wisdom, hope and justice for our entire caucus and nation,” he wrote in a Twitter post. “There isn’t a member among us who wasn’t mentored by him. It was an honor of a lifetime to have served alongside such a giant of American history.”
Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, also shared her sadness on Twitter.
“He spent his life fighting for justice,” she wrote. “In Congress he was a leader for what was good. I will miss his kindness, his good humor, his friendship and his moral compass.”
Mourners in San Jose honored Lewis’ life on July 24 with a march and vigil in the city’s center. Rev. Jeff Moore, president of San Jose/Silicon Valley NAACP, said about 60 participants marched from City Hall to the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Library and eventually ended up at The Plaza de Cesar Chavez. The event concluded with singers, speakers and prayer.
“We are deeply saddened by the loss of an icon,” Moore said. “He taught us how to get in good trouble and how to keep on keeping on. We mourn for his loss and for his family.”
Lewis was one of the original Freedom Riders and the last survivor of the Big Six, a group of African-American activists who led the civil rights movement in the 1960s. He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama in 2011.
Shortly before his death, he penned an essay for The New York Times, which was published on the day of his funeral. Lewis urged younger generations to work for justice and peace.
“It is your turn to let freedom ring,” he wrote. “When historians pick up their pens to write the story of the 21st century, let them say that it was your generation who laid down the heavy burdens of hate at last and that peace finally triumphed over violence, aggression and war.”
Contact Katie King at [email protected] or follow @KatieKingCST on Twitter.