As the Hon. John Robert Lewis enters the nearer presence of our Lord, we pray for rest and peace for his soul and comfort for his family, as we mourn the loss of a great leader in the cause of racial justice and healing in our country.
Mr. Lewis, born to sharecroppers in Alabama in 1940, became one of the original Freedom Riders, and he worked his entire lifetime with tireless physical and moral courage in opposition to racism. One of the organizers of the March on Washington, Mr. Lewis may be best known for his leadership in the March 7, 1965 (“Bloody Sunday”) march across the Edmund Pettus bridge, a moment that galvanized Americans in the 20th century civil rights movement.
Mr. Lewis was elected to Congress in 1986 and re-elected 16 times. The list of his actions to confront racism, and the catalogue of insults and physical injuries he sustained in response, fills pages. Controversial on a variety of issues to the end, he was nevertheless awarded over 50 honorary degrees (in addition to his earned degree in religion and philosophy), as well as the Martin Luther King Jr. Nonviolent Peace Prize, the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award, the NAACP Spingarn Medal, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
The willingness to risk censure, hardship, and extreme physical violence at the hands of white supremacists and corrupt officials, for the cause of justice and human rights for black Americans, opened the eyes of many to the injustice and inhumanity of deeply embedded racist norms and laws. Mr. Lewis’ work was instrumental in beginning to dismantle Jim Crow culture – a significant step toward justice and healing.
The Diocese of Virginia honors the legacy of this brave and faithful American. We ask your prayers for the repose of his soul and for comfort of his family. We pray that the Holy Spirit will animate us with the passion and conviction that Mr. Lewis brought to the struggle for justice and healing. May his memory continue to inspire us with boldness, courage, and confidence that in loving our neighbor – all our neighbors – as ourselves, we may bring this country and this world into ever-closer alignment with God’s dream of peace and joy among all people.