John Lewis

Mass. Politicians Mourn ‘Genuine and Iconic Hero' Rep. John Lewis

Rep. Richard Neal, whose office is next door to Lewis', said the longtime Congressman was a paragon of "love, kindness, and forgiveness"

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Condolences and remembrances have been pouring in for Rep. John Lewis, one of the lions of the civil rights fight of the 1960s, who died Friday at 80.

Politicians from Massachusetts and around New England joined in, hailing the longtime public servant who is perhaps most famous for leading the march on the Edmund Pettis Bridge in Selma, Alabama, in 1965, for which he was beaten by police. His colleagues called Lewis' life an inspiration and said the country will be remember his decades of contributions forever.

Among them was Rep. Richard Neal, the chair of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee. Lewis served on the committee as well, and their offices are next to each other in Washington, D.C.

Neal said Lewis' death left him "heartbroken," saying Lewis' courage and optimism and his trademark brand of "good trouble" -- civil disobedience -- often helped the nation, and that he was a paragon of "love, kindness, and forgiveness."

"Serving alongside Congressman Lewis in the House of Representatives has been the honor of my life. His leadership and grace guided much of the Ways and Means Committee’s – and Congress’s – most meaningful and important work," Neal said in a statement.

Peaceful protests brought Lewis across the nation, including to Boston, where he marched with Greater Love Tabernacle Bishop William Dickerson.

“He always took time to encourage the younger leaders that were coming up behind him and letting them know to continue to forge ahead and fight the good fight," Dickerson said.

One of those young leaders is Rep. Ayanna Pressley, who published a statement online Saturday praising Lewis for his "kindness, integrity and good trouble" and ability to encourage people in difficult moments. She also called on others to continue his decades of work.

"The Civil Rights movement isn’t over. We are still in it. And the organizers in the streets today pay homage to the path Congressman Lewis walked before them," Pressley said.

The U.S. congressman died Friday, a source has told NBC News.

Sen. Ed Markey released a statement saying Lewis was a personal inspiration and fought for the soul of the country he loved.

"Congressman John Lewis knew better than anyone how to build and lead a movement that modeled the kind of world we want to create. He was a man of integrity, intelligence, and clarity of purpose, and his spirit flowed through every single protester on America’s streets chanting Black Lives Matters and making good trouble," Markey said.

Rep. Joe Kennedy III said Lewis will continue to lead Americans through his legacy, just as he had in his life.

"Today our nation lost a giant. John Lewis didn’t just change this country, he changed the world. With unbending optimism and unyielding faith in our better angels, he spent his life fighting to make this nation kinder, stronger and more just than he found it. And beyond any doubt, that’s exactly what he did during his time on this earth," Kennedy said.

“One of the words we don’t use enough with John Lewis is ‘patriot,’" Rep. Seth Moulton said in an interview. "He’s an incredible American patriot who never lost faith in this country.”

In neighboring Rhode Island and Connecticut, the states' governors ordered flags to be flown at half-staff until Lewis' body is interred.

"With the passing of Congressman John Lewis, America has lost a titan of the civil rights era, an indomitable force of progress and a fierce voice of truth. John Lewis fought against racism his entire life. He showed that young people can lead a national movement, and he continues to inspire millions of young activists today," Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo said in a statement.

Lewis visited Boston as recently as 2018, when he gave a commencement speech at Harvard University that covered justice and equality.

“My philosophy is very simple. When you see something that is not right, not fair, not just, stand up. Say something. Speak up and speak out," he said.

He gave a similar commencement speech that same spring at Boston University.

"This is a big world. All of us must learn to live together as brothers and sisters. If not, we will perish as fools," he told BU graduates.

Many more New England politicians, current and former, weighed in on Lewis' life and legacy.

UMass President Marty Meehan, a former congressman, mourned Lewis as a man who never gave up on his life's work.

"After I was elected to Congress in 1993, John was one of the first members that I was able to meet. John’s genuine openness to sharing his time, wisdom and experience is something I will be eternally grateful for," Meehan said in a statement.

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