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State Bar president says civil rights leader John Lewis inspired him from an early age

July 21, 2020 Rob Abruzzese
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Longtime U.S. representative and civil rights icon John Lewis died at the age of 80 on Saturday after a six-month battle with cancer.

Shortly after Lewis’ death was reported, Scott Karson, the president of the NYS Bar Association, issued a statement where he said Lewis inspired him from an early age.

“The death of John Lewis, a luminary in the civil rights movement, is a terrible loss for our nation,” Karson said. “I had the privilege of hearing him speak at the 1963 March on Washington, which inspired me to pursue racial justice my entire life. Although illness forced him to the sidelines as the country confronted the death of George Floyd, his insights still galvanized his followers and touched me personally. He will be sorely missed.”

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Lewis was the Democratic U.S. representative for Georgia’s 5th Congressional District for over 30 years. He was arrested more than 40 times, by his count, for demonstrating against racial and social injustice, and was a follower of Martin Luther King Jr. during sit-ins in the 1960s.

“The world mourns the loss of a hero, Congressman John Robert Lewis,” said Attorney General Letitia James. “From a young age, John Lewis saw the perils of an unjust country and committed and risked his life to changing it. From his days leading the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, to the halls of Congress, John Lewis fought to ensure that liberty and justice were truly for all. He reminded all of us that the most powerful nonviolent weapon we have is the power to vote.

“We will continue to follow the example of the great John Lewis by voting, fighting voter suppression at every turn, and standing up for those who can’t stand up for themselves,” James continued. “And of course, by getting into good and necessary trouble. The world was made better by Congressman Lewis, and his spirit lives on in each of us who continue the fight for a more equitable nation. Rest in power.”

Lewis was considered one of the “big six” civil rights leaders, along with King, James Farmer, A. Philip Randolph, Roy Wilkins and Whitney Young, who were instrumental in organizing the March on Washington in 1963. He was also one of the original 13 Freedom Riders, who would ride buses in the south to challenge local laws that enforced segregation.


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