John Robert Lewis, (born February 21, 1940, Troy, Alabama, U.S. — died July 17, 2020, Atlanta, Georgia), American civil rights leader and politician best known for his chairmanship of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and for leading the march that was halted by police violence on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, in 1965, a landmark event in the history of the civil rights movement that became known as “Bloody Sunday.” 1

Lewis left the SNCC in 1966 and continued his work to enfranchise minorities. In 1970, he became director of the Voter Education Project. During his tenure, the VEP helped to register millions of minority voters.

Lewis won a seat on the Atlanta City Council in 1981, then the House of Representatives in 1986. As a representative of Georgia’s 5th District until his death, he was one of the most respected members of Congress. He championed healthcare reform, education improvements and he oversaw multiple renewals of the Voting Rights Act. When the Supreme Court struck down part of the law in 2013 Lewis decried the decision as a “dagger into the heart” of voting rights.

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1Encyclopedia Brittanica