John Lewis: Crossing the bridge to bend arc of justice
Washington -- Rep. John Robert Lewis of Georgia was living proof that nonviolent resistance is not for the faint of heart. Short and stocky, he carried scars of a fractured skull, from billy club blows on a bridge in Selma, Alabama -- scars visible to the multitudes he met. He was 25 back in 1965.
The story of those scars is told in his memoir, "Walking With the Wind." As a student, Lewis was the youngest in the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s circle of civil rights leaders. He became the youngest speaker at the March on Washington.
Lewis told me not long ago he was the last one living.
Now his passing is "a death in the family," a saddened House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said at the Capitol rotunda ceremony. The same age, she heard Lewis speak rousingly that summer day, when King delivered his "I Have a Dream" vision before the world's eyes. President John F. Kennedy watched from the White House, amazed.
Nonviolence shaped the "beloved community," an idea Lewis taught us.
The champion, who led a march straight into the storm of helmeted Alabama state troopers that "Bloody Sunday," is gone at 80. He lies in state here at the Capitol, resting on the Lincoln coffin catafalque. It's the first time an American of color has been so honored.
The loss of a beloved hero falls at a hurting hour of history.
As Lewis lies peacefully in state, a swirl of serious chaos in Congress charges the air, flying over his body from both sides of the rotunda. He left us at a time of reckoning and fear.
In the throes of a pandemic and an uneven president, we're in an inescapable, epic health crisis. But that's not all anymore. We're facing an economic crisis and a breakdown in governance. Three crises equal a calamity.
"We are on the precipice of several cliffs," Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said.