John Lewis was elected to Congress in November of 1986 and served as US Representative from Georgia’s fifth District for 17 terms. He was awarded more than 50 honorary degrees and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from Barack Obama. In 2011, John Lewis was the son of sharecroppers and he spent Sunday’s growing up with a great grandfather who was born into slavery. When Lewis was a few months old, the manager of a chicken farm named Jesse Thornton was lynched about 20 miles down. The road from where Lewis lived, Jessie Thornton’s offense was that he referred to a police officer by his first name rather than his mister. The result was that a mob pursued, Thornton stoned him, shot him and then dumped his body in a swamp. As a boy Lewis decided that he wanted to be a preacher, he earned a BA and religion and philosophy from Fisk University and graduated from the American Baptist. Theological Seminary in Nashville, however, when he was 15 years old, John Lewis heard dr. Martin Luther King jr. preached on the radio and he felt that God was calling him to join the civil rights movement. According to the New York Times, Lewis led demonstrations against racially segregated restrooms hotels, restaurants, public parks and swimming pools, and he rose up against other indignities of second class citizenship at nearly every turn.

He was beaten, spat upon or burned with cigarettes during the Freedom Rides of 1961. The Times reports that Lewis was left unconscious in a pool of his own blood outside the Greyhound bus terminal in Montgomery Alabama after he and others were attacked by hundreds of white people.

It adds that he spent countless days and nights in County and 31 days in Mississippi’s, notoriously brutal Parchman penitentiary. Lewis was the youngest keynote speaker at the march on Washington in 1963. On March 7th 1965, he led a group of 600 people marching for black voting rights in Selma Alabama. They were met by a group of police officers. Lewis suffered a skull fracture when one of those officers beat him with a nightstick. I thought I was gon na die. He said later the event became known as Bloody Sunday in his early 20s Lewis, embraced a form of nonviolent protest, grounded in the principle of redemptive suffering Lewis, explained his life philosophy. This way he said at a very early stage of the movement, I accepted the teaching of Jesus, the way of love, the way of non violence, the spirit of forgiveness and reconciliation. The idea of hate is too heavy a burden to bear. I don’t want to go down that road I’ve seen too much hate I’ve seen too much violence, and I know love is a better way. Five years ago, on the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday, President Obama and former president george w bush joined congressman Lewis in a walk across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma that same bridge, where lewis and other nonviolent protestors had been assaulted by state troopers in 1965.

As they called for voting rights for black citizens following congressman Lewis death, President Obama said of him.

He loved this country so much that he risked his life and blood so that it might live up to its promise Senate Majority Leader Mitch. Mcconnell stated progress is not automatic. Our great nation’s history is only bent toward justice, because great men, like John Lewis, took it upon themselves to help bend it.