Barack Obama, Ava DuVernay and More Pay Tribute to John Lewis: 'Thank You for Your Care and Kindness'

John Lewis died on July 17 after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in December 2019

Barack Obama, John Lewis, Ava Duvernay
Photo: Ron Sachs-Pool/Getty Images; Earl Gibson III/Getty Images; Ray Tamarra/Getty Images

The world is paying tribute to the late Rep. John Lewis. He was 80.

Politicians and celebrities expressed their condolences after news of Lewis’ death was made public on Friday evening. The longtime Georgia congressman and renowned civil rights activist died months after being diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer in December 2019.

“He loved this country so much that he risked his life and his blood so that it might live up to its promise,” former President Barack Obama wrote in a statement on Saturday. “And through the decades, he not only gave all of himself to the cause of freedom and justice, but inspired generations that followed to try to live up to his example.”

Obama continued, sharing his personal experiences with Lewis: “I first met John when I was in law school, and I told him then that he was one of my heroes. Years later, when I was elected a U.S. Senator, I told him that I stood on his shoulders. When I was elected President of the United States, I hugged him on the inauguration stand before I was sworn in and told him I was only there because of the sacrifices he made. And through all those years, he never stopped providing wisdom and encouragement to me and Michelle and our family. We will miss him dearly.”

Former President George W. Bush shared a photo of unity from March 2015 when he and Obama held hands with Lewis at the Edmund Pettus Bridge on the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday.

“Laura and I join our fellow Americans in mourning the loss of Congressman John Lewis. As a young man marching for equality in Selma, Alabama, John answered brutal violence with courageous hope. And throughout his career as a civil rights leader and public servant, he worked to make our country a more perfect union. America can best honor John's memory by continuing his journey toward liberty and justice for all,” Bush said in a statement.

Director Ava DuVernay also shared a tribute to the late politician, writing on Twitter: “Thank you for your care and kindness, your advice and understanding. Will never forget what you taught me and what you challenged me to be. Better. Stronger. Bolder. Braver. God bless you, Ancestor John Robert Lewis of Troy, Alabama. Run into His arms.”

Carole King posted a powerful photo of Lewis alongside her own personal message. “I had the honor and pleasure of knowing this humble man who inspired millions of people by making every moment of his life meaningful,” the “I Feel the Earth Move” singer wrote. “May he rest In peace and power.”

Grown-ish star Yara Shahidi shared that she was “heartbroken,” also including the death of civil rights activist C.T. Vivien in her tweet. “Reverend C.T. Vivian and Congressman John Lewis both dedicated their lives to the fight for racial equity and for that we are forever, gratefully, indebted,” she wrote.

Politicians, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Sen. Kamala Harris and Rep. Ilhan Omar, also shared touching tributes to Lewis.

"John Lewis was an icon who fought with every ounce of his being to advance the cause of civil rights for all Americans. I'm devastated for his family, friends, staff—and all those whose lives he touched. My friend, thank you for showing the world what #GoodTrouble looks like," Harris wrote.

In his message, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo also referenced Lewis’ famous phrase, encouraging young activists to get into “good trouble” to enact change.

“John Lewis was one of the greatest men this country has ever known - a man of unimpeachable integrity, wisdom, courage, and morality,” Cuomo wrote. “He was our conscience. And I know I speak for the entire family of New York when I say we are devastated by this loss. #GoodTrouble”

Sen. Mitt Romney added, “With the passing of John Lewis, America has lost not only a man of history, but a man for our season; O how we need such men of unwavering principle, unassailable character, penetrating purpose, and heartfelt compassion.”

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