Southwest Virginia remembers Congressman John Lewis, civil rights icon

Local News

ROANOKE, Va. (WFXR) — Local leaders are offering words of praise and remembrance for Congressman John Lewis after his death Friday, July 17.

Lewis, a 17-term congressman from Georgia, was a leader in the civil rights movement in the 1960s. He spoke at the 1963 March on Washington. He was the last living speaker from that event. Lewis was beat and his skull fractured after leading a march on March 7, 1965, over the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama. The day came to known as “Bloody Sunday.”

Virginia’s senior senator, Mark Warner, had the opportunity to walk across the Edmund Pettus Bridge with Lewis in 2013, nearly 50 years after “Bloody Sunday.”

“It was one of the most profoundly moving experiences of my life,” Warner wrote on Facebook. “From risking his life on this bridge to his thirty years in Congress, John Lewis always found a way to make #GoodTrouble in the struggle for freedom. Our country has lost a great man.”

The Lynchburg branch of the NAACP posted the statement on Facebook by national president and CEO Derrick Johnson.

“A national treasure and a civil rights legend for the ages, he used every waking moment of his 80 years to push this country toward more representative democracy and left behind a remarkable model,” Johnson said. “It is up to us to pick up his mantle and carry on, and we urge the entire nation to join us. As people of all colors are in the streets seeking racial justice, we urge all that can to speak louder and stay a little longer to honor the best warrior for democracy our nation has ever known.”

Roanoke Mayor Sherman Lea said Lewis will be “hard to replace.”

“He gave all of us an example … of how to go about making change. As you said, he was an icon,” Lea told WFXR News Monday. (Mayor Lea’s full interview is embedded at the top of this post.)

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Virginia) noted Lewis’ fight against segregation.

“His moral courage transformed this country. May it live on.”

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Virginia)

Fifth District Congressman Denver Riggleman, a Republican from Afton, called it “an honor to serve in Congress with him.”

Bob Good, who defeated Riggleman in the 5th Congressional District Republican convention, noted the time he and his daughter met Lewis.

“My daughter and I had the privilege of meeting Congressman Lewis and hearing him speak, two years ago in a small group setting in Washington, D.C.,” Good wrote on Facebook. “His words that day matched his legacy, and I am grateful for his service to our nation.”

Congressman Ben Cline (R-6th District) said, “It was an honor to call him a colleague and a friend, and his memory will live on in our continued fight for peace and justice throughout the world.”

Morgan Griffith, a Republican who represents Virginia’s 9th Congressional District, posted a photo of his son with the late civil rights leader who he called an “icon of the civil rights movement.”

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