Community leaders and members gathered at the Black Heritage Memorial Plaza on Saturday to celebrate the life and achievements of Congressman John Lewis.
Mayor Mary Parham-Copelan was not present due to feeling unwell the morning of the event, but Mayor pro tempore, Denese Shinholster, announced that July 25 would henceforth be a local holiday called “John Lewis Day.”
Speakers shared stories of Congressman Lewis and spoke with hope for the future.
“In the black lives movement, we are looking for Gen-Z, [and] we are looking for millennials,” said former Milledgeville mayor and state senator Floyd L. Griffin Jr. “For someone to rise up out of the dust, to have the next leader and leaders like John Lewis.”
At the end of the ceremony, white balloons were released in the Congressman’s memory, filling the sky above the plaza with a symbol of collective grief.
Congressman Lewis’s accomplishments were too many to name on a single page of text, but here are some notable highlights:
• One of the original 13 Freedom Riders in 1961.
• One of the “Big Six” in 1963, leader of one of the groups who organized the March on Washington during the original Civil Rights Movement – He was the last surviving member of the Big Six.
• Worked closely with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. during the Civil Rights Movement.
• Led the Selma to Montgomery marches in Alabama, 1965.
• Was an unarmed peaceful demonstrator attacked by police on Bloody Sunday, 1965.
• Served in Congress for 33 years, from 1987 until he passed away. He was reelected for the senate 16 consecutive times.
• A major proponent for voting and voting rights all throughout his career. Constantly encouraged citizens to vote.
• Called the “conscious of Congress” for his moral compass; he was known to speak out not only on the civil rights of African Americans, but openly voiced his support of the LGBTQ+ community and national health insurance.
• During the 2020 demonstrations in D.C., Congressman Lewis – who by then walked with a cane – marched for civil rights once more.