Photo: Georgia Congressman John Lewis waves at the 50th Anniversary of the march on Washington and Martin Luther King’s I Have A Dream Speech, August 24, 2013, Lincoln Memorial, Washington, D.C.
By Theresa Braine,
Congressman and civil rights icon John Lewis is undergoing treatment for stage 4 pancreatic cancer, his office announced Sunday.
“I have been in some kind of fight — for freedom, equality, basic human rights — for nearly my entire life,” Lewis, 79, said in a statement. “I have never faced a fight quite like the one I have now.”
The illness was discovered earlier this month during a routine medical visit, the Georgia representative said, and was confirmed by subsequent tests. “This diagnosis has been reconfirmed,” he added.
Lewis has been a leader in the civil rights movement for decades and is currently serving his 17th term in the House, to which he was elected in 1987. The Democrat is known as the dean of the Georgia congressional delegation.
“While I am clear-eyed about the prognosis, doctors have told me that recent medical advances have made this type of cancer treatable in many cases, that treatment options are no longer as debilitating as they once were, and that I have a fighting chance,” he said, ending on a note of optimism. “So I have decided to do what I know to do and do what I have always done: I am going to fight it and keep fighting for the Beloved Community. We still have many bridges to cross.”
The Southern Christian Leadership Conference Extends Prayers to Longtime Civil Rights and Political Leader John Lewis
ATLANTA – Dr. Charles Steele, Jr., president of the Atlanta-based Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), issued the following statement today in response to news that legendary civil rights and political leader John Lewis has been diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer. Lewis is the longtime representative of Georgia’s Fifth Congressional District.
“Our prayers go out to Congressman John Lewis,” Dr. Steele said. “He has been a longtime supporter of the SCLC and for the voiceless in America. We encourage him to stay strong, vigilant and relentless in addressing the most serious fight for his life just as he has done continuously in the fight to protect the civil and human rights for our people. There is no civil rights warrior more dedicated to the cause than John Lewis. I know he will wage this battle head on.”
He is no stranger to epic battles and resistance. The Georgia congressman famously marched alongside Martin Luther King Jr. and others leading the 1965 voting rights march over the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala., which was stopped when white state troopers assaulted them with nightsticks and tear gas.
Lewis was beaten and his skull was broken. A total of 17 marchers were sent to the hospital and 50 others injured.
More recently, Lewis gave an impassioned speech on the floor of the House related to President Trump’s impeachment, calling a yes vote a “moral obligation” and urging fellow congressmen to “be on the right side of history.”
Among the numerous tributes that poured in upon the news was one from President Barack Obama, who tweeted his support and confidence.
“If there’s one thing I love about Rep. John Lewis, it’s his incomparable will to fight,” Obama wrote.
Lewis assured constituents he would be back in Washington to work while undergoing treatment over the next several weeks.
“I may miss a few votes during this period, but with God’s grace I will be back on the front lines soon,” he said. “Please keep me in your prayers as I begin this journey.”