South Jersey Speaks Out on Late Civil Rights Icon Rep. John Lewis

By Clyde Hughes | AC JosepH Media

Kimberly Greene of Washington Township and co-owner of Bases Loaded Authentic Clothing and Kaps, this weekend had one request to make in a future post of Front Runner New Jersey.com – adding a picture of her and late U.S. Rep. John Lewis.

“It’s people like him that motivate me to keep doing what we’re doing,” said Greene, whose company’s motto is “Empowering our future by honoring and preserving our past.” “And they are leaving us too quickly.”

New Jersey leaders of all races spoke out over the weekend about the death of Civil Rights legend and U.S. Rep. John Lewis, who died Friday in pancreatic cancer.

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Lewis, one of the enduring figures as a youth who fought on side of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and the youngest person to speak the historic 1963 March of Washington, found his way to Congress where he served for more than 30 years in the House of Representatives representing his hometown of Atlanta.

He was nearly beaten to death during the infamous “Bloody Sunday” in Selma, Ala. in 1965 and as a Freedom Rider trying to enforce Supreme Court integration laws in interstate bus travel in 1961. Through it all, Lewis remained hopeful through his dying moments about the promise of America.

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“Every time I would sit in a room with him or take a sojourn with him over this last six years, I just had this feeling that God was giving me this precious gift of letting me be in the presence of one of the greatest Americans of this past century or more,” New Jersey U.S. Sen. Cory Booker told Yahoo News about his mentor, referring to him as a “titan of American history.”

New Jersey’s U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez called Lewis the “Conscience of Congress,” and an extraordinary public servant.

“John’s lifetime of advocacy for racial, social and economic justice paved the way for the tremendous progress our country made in the past 60 years,” Menendez said in a statement. “John was a trailblazer who paved the way for Black Americans and other minority groups in this country. When they felt voiceless, he was their voice and champion. And I know if it wasn’t for his leadership and unwillingness to back down from a fight, I wouldn’t be a U.S. Senator today.”

U.S. Rep. Donald Norcross (D-Camden) added his voice, saying that Lewis “spoke softly but powerfully, he walked slowly but purposefully and he acted kindly but fought tirelessly for justice. He devoted his life to making the world a better place, and he succeeded, inspiring millions to follow his lead along the way.”

Loretta Winters, president of the Gloucester County NAACP said she met Lewis when they were both honored at a National Stop the Violence, Inc. event and then again at the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday in Selma.

“Rep. Lewis, we will miss you but we promise to continue the fight,” Winters said on Facebook. “He was a true hero and activist with the courage to put his life on the line for the future generation. He was an inspiration, a hope. He never gave up.”

Kaleem Shabazz, president of the Atlantic City NAACP, said the civil rights community was still mourning the loss of another rights icon C.T. Vivian when they learned of Lewis’s passing.

“America has suffered a great loss in the passing of two giants of the civil rights struggle, C.T. Vivian and John Lewis,” Shabazz said on Twitter. “They have left their footprints in the sands of time. Their courage, their faith, their spirit of service and sacrifice are examples for us in today’s critical times. C.T. Vivian and John Lewis departed this life after giving so much of themselves to the ongoing struggle for freedom justice and human dignity. Rest in power our great pioneers of struggle.

Rann Miller, a social justice columnist who directs the 21st Century Community Learning Center in southern New Jersey, said Lewis’s life stands as an example for people who want to courageously and honorable fight injustice.

“John Lewis is one of the greatest people this country has ever produced,” Miller said. “He was beaten, arrested, jailed and mocked so that we had the chance to make truth out of the constitution. His spirit live on forever through the forces of good who seek to do as he did — serve with valor, courage, and dignity.”

Former Atlantic City school board member and Mayor Marty Small’s campaign manager Stephenie Dixon posted several Lewis-related items on her Facebook page this weekend, including a petition to get the Edmund Pettis Bridge named after the Civil Rights icon.

“(I) had the opportunity to March in Selma and heard Rep John Lewis speak on top of the bridge and the tears kept falling. Rest in power, Rep. John Lewis,” Dixon wrote.

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