SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – The nation paid their final respects Thursday to Congressman John Lewis. The civil rights icon passed away July 17 at the age of 80 after a battle with pancreatic cancer.
While Congressman Lewis represented Georgia’s 5th Congressional District, his life made an impact here in western Massachusetts. Lewis started as a civil rights activist in the south after being inspired by Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King. Jr. He led what is known as the “Bloody Sunday” march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama in 1965.
The congressman from Atlanta won his U.S. House Seat in 1986 and served for more than three decades. His legacy of civil rights activism and civil service touched many here locally.
“It gives our young people and our families something that they can sit down and they talk about at their dinner table. Or that when they get together in their small social groups that they’re having conversations about the legacy of this man. And that hopefully they’re inspired to commit to doing good work where they are.”Ron johnson, President, Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center
The MLK Jr. services said Lewis’ death leads them to renew their commitment to social justice and address health insecurities in Springfield.
Congressman Lewis visited Elms College in Chicopee and Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts in North Adams in recent years to give commencement speeches.