Representative John Lewis has a solid, proven place in American history fighting for Black equality. To truly understand what his life means ABC4 talked to local civil rights icon Reverend France Davis.
Davis is the Pastor Emeritus at Calvary Baptist Church in Salt Lake City and also a former educator who taught at the University of Utah for 42 years.
“John Lewis would say that all of his life was committed to bringing about the civil rights changes that needed to be made in this community,” said Rev. Davis.
For nearly 60 of his 80 years on earth, Lewis has led the charge fighting for Black rights and equality. As an Alabama native, he would go on to serve for the 5th Congressional District in Georgia.
As an original Freedom Rider, Lewis was the youngest and last survivor of the Big Six Civil Rights activists who organized the 1963 March on Washington.
It would be two years later when Lewis and Davis’ paths would cross.
“I met John during 1965,” said Davis. “The March from Selma to Montgomery. He was a leader then, and continued to be a leader until the day he died.”
It was in 2013 during the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington that Lewis shared these words with the crowd.
“All of us. It doesn’t matter whether we are black or white, Latino, Asian American, or native American,” said Lewis. “It doesn’t matter whether we are straight or gay. We are one people.”
As Rev. Davis talks about his own time marching from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, he recalls Lewis’ influence.
“John Lewis along with Dr. King, Ralph Abernathy, C.T. Vivian, and Vivian by the way just died a day or so ago as well. That all of those people were apart of the leadership, and that leadership made a significant difference to those of us who were students like myself,” he said.
It was Selma’s Edmund Pettus Bridge where Lewis was beaten bloody, his skull fractured as he led 600 protesters across in it 1965.
As Davis witnesses the protests happening now, he shares what he believes Lewis would tell those continuing this fight.
“I think he would say to those who are standing up continue to stand,” said Davis. “I think he would say to those that are protesting do what you’re going to do in a way that draws attention of the world not violently, but working through the system and within the system.”
Davis goes on to say he believes Lewis would also say we’ve come along way, but there’s still a lot of work that needs to be done.