The primetime special will air Aug. 4 on CBS and across several other ViacomCBS brands

By Claudia Harmata
August 03, 2020 11:30 AM
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Rep. John Lewis
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CBS plans to honor the late civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis with a primetime special on Tuesday.

The tribute event will be hosted by Oprah Winfrey, Tyler Perry, Gayle King and Brad Pitt. It is set to air at 10 p.m. ET on Aug. 4 on CBS and across several other ViacomCBS brands — including OWN, BET, MTV and Smithsonian, Variety reported.

“John Lewis was an extraordinary man,” Winfrey said in a statement to Variety. “A man of great vision who lived a life with the purpose of making sure America lived out its ideals.”

“This is a celebration of the ‘boy from Troy,’” Perry added. “A forefather of the civil rights movement, who would live to see his contributions for equality result in witnessing the swearing in of the first Black United States president.”

The special, dubbed John Lewis: Celebrating a Hero, will feature musical performances, interviews, and conversations about Lewis’ life and legacy.

Oprah Winfrey, Tyler Perry, Gayle King and Brad Pitt,
Bertrand Rindoff Petroff/Getty; Dia Dipasupil/Getty; Theo Wargo/Getty; Michael Kovac/Getty

In addition to the hosts, Yolanda Adams, Jon Batiste, Common, Jennifer Hudson, John Legend, Trevor Noah, Billy Porter and Wynonna are all lined up to perform during the event.

“Congressman Lewis was one of the most prominent and forceful voices for change in this country. Losing that voice now is so difficult as the country confronts structural racism. But John Lewis gave us the will and the way to continue his work,” said Susan Zirinsky, president and senior executive producer of CBS News, in a statement. “This special reminds us the journey will not be easy, and there’s no turning back.”

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The longtime Georgia lawmaker was a key figure during the civil rights movement and the last surviving speaker from the 1963 March on Washington. Lewis was the youngest of the "Big Six" leaders of the civil rights movement, alongside Martin Luther King Jr., and led the march through Selma, Alabama, on "Bloody Sunday," helping lead to the passing of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

He died on July 17 from pancreatic cancer at age 80.

John Lewis leads marchers across the Edmund Titus Bridge in Selma, Alabama on March 7, 1965.
The Birmingham News

News of the CBS special comes just days after Lewis was laid to rest in Atlanta on Thursday following a week-long "Celebration of Life," which included memorial processions across the southern U.S. His casket made stops in Troy, Selma and Montgomery in his native Alabama.

The congressman's casket was also displayed in the rotunda of the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, D.C., before his body was brought back to Atlanta — his adopted home — for Thursday's funeral at Ebenezer Baptist Church, where King had preached.

Former president Barack Obama eulogized Lewis at the funeral and called on others "to be more like John."

“He was a good and kind and gentle man and he believed in us, even when we didn’t believe in ourselves," said Obama, 58.

"America was built by John Lewises," Obama continued, to a roar of applause. "He, as much as anyone in our history, brought this country a little bit closer to our highest ideals. And someday when we do finish that long journey towards freedom, when we do form a more perfect union, whether it’s years from now or decades, or even if it takes another two centuries, John Lewis will be a founding father of that fuller, fairer, better America."

Former Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush also spoke during Thursday's services, which were also attended by Lewis' former colleagues from the House of Representatives.