Civil rights icon and veteran congressman John Lewis was remembered and celebrated on Saturday, a year to the day since his death on July 17, 2020.
Senior lawmakers and members of Lewis’ family gathered in California for the christening of the USNS John Lewis, a Navy ship named after the late Georgia Democrat.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said at the christening that it was “fitting that we honor John Lewis with this formidable ship.“
“John Lewis was a warrior,” she said. “One of the mottos of the Navy is ‘semper fortis’ — always courageous — and John Lewis was indeed always courageous.”
President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris also marked the anniversary of Lewis’ death by calling on Congress to enact legislation protecting voting rights — a cause that Lewis dedicated much of his life to.
Biden said in a statement that Lewis, on his deathbed, had beseeched him to “remain focused on the unfinished work — his life’s work — of healing and uniting this nation.”
That work includes “continuing the cause that John was willing to give his life for: protecting the sacred right to vote,” Biden said. “Not since the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s have we seen such unrelenting attacks on voting rights and the integrity of our elections.”
Many luminaries, including former President Barack Obama, paid tribute to Lewis on Saturday.
“John Lewis and C.T. Vivian loved this country so much that they risked their lives so that it might live up to its promise,“ Obama said. Vivian, another civil rights leader, died on the same day as Lewis last year.
“They gave all of themselves to the cause of freedom and justice, and inspired generations to follow their example. Now it’s up to us to continue the work,” Obama said.
In Nashville, where a young Lewis led nonviolent civil rights protests in the 1960s, a marker for a new “Rep. John Lewis Way” was unveiled and hundreds joined in a march to pay tribute to the late congressman.
Several other vigils and events honoring Lewis were planned in Washington, D.C., and in cities across the country.
Lewis died last year at the age of 80 after a battle with pancreatic cancer.