I had the good fortune to meet Congressman John Lewis twice: once at the Atlanta Pride Festival and again at the Decatur Book Festival. Both of those interactions were brief, but they left an impression.
Lewis was one of those rare individuals who exuded kindness, whose handshake was a reassurance that there was decency left in the world. His resolve and spirit were manifest in his voice, the way he held your eye, and spoke to you like you were the only person in the room. It truly was an honor to meet a man who had given his whole life to a cause and to his country. He truly was a hero.
When I got the alert that the civil rights icon had made his transition late on July 17, I felt an intense wave of grief. Losing him in the midst of a pandemic and during a time of social and political upheaval seemed just another cruelty visited on us in 2020. Lewis was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer just before the world turned upside down, and while there were reassuring emails from him, his physical voice and presence was greatly missed.
His last appearance in June at the giant Black Lives Matter mural in Washington DC showed a man who might have been frail in body but filled with spirit and that infinite resolve. The photo of him at the mural with his arms crossed defiantly – like a boss, as the kids say these days – is one more indelible image and memory to cherish and inspire.
This past weekend, Lewis made his final crossing of the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama where he had his skull fractured by state police during an infamous encounter on “Bloody Sunday.” Watching his flag-draped coffin on a horse-drawn caisson slowly cross the rose petal strewn bridge was incredibly moving.
Now, Lewis has returned to Georgia to lie in state today, July 29, at the State Capitol before his funeral on July 30 at Ebenezer Baptist Church. Fulton Government Television (FGTV) will air coverage of the special ceremony in honor of Lewis at https://www.fultoncountyga.gov/watch-fgtv. FGTV coverage of the ceremony begins at 1 p.m. on July 29.
Good rest to you, sir, and may we all have the courage to get into “good trouble.”