SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – Religious leaders in the Springfield community are paying tribute to the late Congressman John Lewis, following his death Friday.
Like Martin Luther King Jr., Lewis was a leader in the civil rights movement, fighting for racial equality in the south, including Selma, Alabama, where he led the protest over the Edmund Pettus Bridge. That’s also where he suffered one of the most brutal beatings from law enforcement.
“He certainly could have walked away but he wasn’t that type of man, he was the type of man who wanted to make it better for everyone,” said Bernard McClusky, Deacon at Progressive Community Baptist Church. “His whole reflection in the spiritual community is that if we are truly spiritual we have got to love one another.”
McClusky is also a Vietnam veteran. He told 22News he got to know Lewis, at the congressional black caucus in Washington.
“I’ve had on more than one opportunity to be in his company. And it’s always a pleasure to be in his company,” McClusky recalled. “He is a giant you understand? He’s a giant that went through so much.”
Lewis’ life long commitment to change and equality really resonates with the religious community in Springfield. Reverend Atu White of the Mt. Zion Baptist Church shared how he’s remembering Lewis and the importance of continuing his work.
“He never allowed Washington to corrupt him. And that’s what I remember about him, most about Congressman Lewis,” Reverend White told 22News. “He stayed true, tested, and pure to the passion he had for social justice.”
“It’s our responsibility to honor his legacy by moving forward,” Reverend White added. “Keeping those dreams he had alive, so we can achieve what he could not accomplish in his lifetime.”