Jeff Bezos Donates $100 Million to Obama Foundation in Honor of Civil Rights Icon John Lewis

The gift marks the largest donation made to the nonprofit to date

President Barack Obama; Jeff Bezos; John Lewis
Photo: Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images; Phillip Faraone/Getty Images; Rick Diamond/Getty Images

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos is donating $100 million to the Obama Foundation in honor of late Georgia congressman and civil rights icon John Lewis.

The gift, announced Monday, marks the largest donation that the Obamas' eponymous nonprofit has ever received and will also support its ongoing mission to develop the next generation of global leaders.

In exchange for the donation Bezos has asked to have the plaza at the forthcoming Chicago-based Obama Presidential Center named John Lewis Plaza.

In a statement, Bezos praised the foundation for its work in helping young people develop leadership and singled out how deserving Lewis was of the honor.

"Freedom fighters deserve a special place in the pantheon of heroes, and I can't think of a more fitting person to honor with this gift than John Lewis, a great American leader and a man of extraordinary decency and courage," Bezos said in a press release.

"I'm thrilled to support President and Mrs. Obama and their Foundation in its mission to train and inspire tomorrow's leaders," he said.

Representative John Lewis
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Lewis died in July of 2020 at the age of 80 after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in December 2019. The longtime lawmaker was a major figure in the civil rights movement.

"John believed in the power of ordinary people to do extraordinary things," Michael Collins, trustee of Lewis' estate, said in the press release. "His life was a testament to this notion and he would be a fierce advocate for the training and support needed to inspire the next generation of leaders to follow in his footsteps."

President <a href="" data-inlink="true">Barack Obama</a>
Vincent Thian/AP/Shutterstock

Bezos, ranked this year as the world's richest person by Forbes — a wealth that has attracted considerable attention and controversy — has increasingly made philanthropic pledges, including to José Andrés and Van Jones as well as the Obamas' foundation.

A source tells PEOPLE that Bezos and the former president built a connection while Obama was in the White House.

"Amazon was the largest U.S. employer during the Obama administration at a time when the economy needed jobs, so of course President Obama knew Bezos and they had conversations. However, they are not friends who talk every week," the source says.

In September, the Obama Presidential Center broke ground and is expected to be complete by 2025. The plaza is expected to attract around 1 million visitors each year.

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