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UT professor: No denying impact Lewis had on America

Published: Jul. 29, 2020 at 12:04 PM EDT
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TOLEDO, Ohio (WTVG) - While not everyone agreed with Rep. John Lewis' politics, the head of the University of Toledo political science department said it's hard to argue the lasting impact Lewis' work will have on the United States.

Lewis represented Georgia in the U.S. House for more than three decades. He died on July 17 at the age of 80.

"It often takes people like John Lewis, who are willing to put their bodies on the line to stand up for what they believe in and what they think America means for change to happen and lead through those examples," Sam Nelson, head of UT's political science department, said. "It is not all court cases and congressional hearings."

Lewis became active in the civil rights movement as a young man. His father was a sharecropper, and his great grandfather was a slave.

Lewis worked alongside Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., speaking before Dr. King at the March on Washington, where Dr. King delivered his iconic "I Have A Dream" speech. And Lewis was beaten by police while walking across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala., in March 1965.

First elected to the House in 1986, Lewis is the first African American lawmaker to lie in state in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda. Lewis' body rested on the same wooden platform constructed in 1865 to support President Abraham Lincoln's casket.

"There are only so many people of his stature and only so many people lived his experiences and accomplishments," Nelson said. "It's important to mark his passing and mark what a lifetime of service to American and bringing it up to ideals looks like."

Lewis’ body was moved from the U.S. Capitol to lie in state in the Georgia state capitol on Wednesday. Following services Thursday at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Lewis will be laid to rest at Southview Cemetery.

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