PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – A man who was on the front lines of the Civil Rights Movement and later considered the ‘conscience of Congress,’ John Lewis died Friday after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.
He was 80-years-old.
Reaction and tributes to the icon have poured in from across the country on social media, including Pittsburgh.
Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto and Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald expressed their condolences.
Fitzgerald also mentioned Lewis’ 2016 visit to Ebenezer Baptist Church in the Hill District.
Brenda Tate, Director of Community Outreach at the church, remembered working for a year to bring Lewis to Pittsburgh.
Lewis had initially inspired Tate to get involved in social justice when she was in high school.
“The spirit that was in that church that day was amazing,” she recalled.
The speech was a part of the church’s Social Justice Series, and is considered one of the most impactful speeches in the event’s history.
“He talked about how we need to save our community to do great things,” Tate added.
Todd Allen, a professor at Messiah College and Beaver County native, recalled meeting Lewis several times, often through Allen’s organization The Common Ground Project, which organizes an annual, nine-day civil rights tour.
“You knew you were in the presence of royalty, but he was so ordinary,” Allen said. “So humble, so down to earth.”
Now, reflecting on a life of creating what Lewis called “good trouble,” Allen says it’s imperative to continue Lewis’ fight for justice.
“Not only was John Lewis on the bridge for us back in 1965, but John Lewis was the bridge for us until his very, very last breath.”