John Robert Lewis (February 21, 1940 – July 17, 2020) was an American politician and civil rights activist who served in the United States House of Representatives for Georgia’s 5th congressional district from 1987 until his death in 2020. He participated in the 1960 Nashville sit-ins, the Freedom Rides, was the chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) from 1963 to 1966, and was one of the “Big Six” leaders of groups who organized the 1963 March on Washington. Fulfilling many key roles in the civil rights movement and its actions to end legalized racial segregation in the United States, in 1965 Lewis led the first of three Selma to Montgomery marches across the Edmund Pettus Bridge where, in an incident which became known as Bloody Sunday, state troopers and police attacked Lewis and the other marchers.
A member of the Democratic Party, Lewis was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1986 and served 17 terms. The district he represented included most of Atlanta. Due to his length of service, he became the dean of the Georgia congressional delegation. Lewis was one of the leaders of the Democratic Party in the House, serving from 1991 as a chief deputy whip and from 2003 as a senior chief deputy whip. He received many honorary degrees and awards, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011