‘Conscience of Congress’ John Lewis Hailed As Hero

John Lewis
Rep. John Lewis (Image credit: Congressional photo)

The July 17 death of Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), longtime congressman and civil rights icon, drew salutes from industry players inside the Beltway. 

“I was fortunate to have known and worked with John Lewis during the overlapping years that we served in Congress," said National Association of Broadcasters president and CEO Gordon Smith, former Republican senator from Oregon. "But I count myself doubly fortunate to have gone with John on his last visit to Selma and to have walked with him over the Edmund Pettis Bridge.

"John Lewis was a warrior for justice and a soldier for peace. His life was gentle, his message powerful, and his leadership historic, leading us all to a more perfect union."

Mignon Clyburn, the first Black female FCC chair and daughter of Lewis' colleague House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) tweeted: 

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FCC commissioner Geoffrey Starks tweeted following Lewis' death: 

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”John Lewis … the conscience of the Congress … a giant among men who left an enduring legacy of tolerance and the pursuit of social justice for the world,” said Adonis Hoffman, chairman of Business in the Public Interest and former chief of staff to FCC commissioner and chairman Mignon Clyburn.

“Freedom is the continuous action we all must take, and each generation must do its part to create an even more fair, more just society.' “Those were the words of Congressman John Lewis in his 2017 memoir — and they were the words he embodied throughout the entirety of his incredible life,” said Motion Picture Association chairman Charles Rivkin. ”From his efforts as a young protester and leader in the Civil Rights Movement, to serving on Capitol Hill for 17 terms and becoming the ‘conscience of Congress,’ John Lewis was a living bridge spanning the pivotal social justice movements of our time. Over the course of his life, he stayed true to his guiding principles and never backed down from speaking up — inspiring generations of activists and leaders to follow.

“In the film, television, and streaming industry especially, we understand the importance of how words and stories can challenge our view of society, and how they can make an everlasting impact on our history. Few Americans have changed the course of history like Congressman John Lewis did through his words and actions. John Lewis was unquestionably an American hero, a true patriot, and an incomparable example of how to use our voice to make a difference.”

”Like so many issues that Lewis spent his life fighting for, the struggle for a free and open internet continues,“ Joseph Torres, senior director of strategy and engagement, wrote on the Free Press Web site following Lewis‘ death. He called Lewis a fighter for media justice, pointing out that Lewis had joined with other lawmakers to call for the Obama Administration to pass enforceable net neutrality rules. ”[I]f we had the internet during the movement, we could have done more, much more, to bring people together from all around the country, to organize and work together to build the beloved community. That is why it is so important for us to protect the internet. Every voice matters, and we cannot let the interests of profit silence the voices of those pursuing human dignity," Lewis said in 2015. 

"The congressman was known for urging everyday people to get into 'good trouble' when they witness injustice," wrote Torres. "And that’s something all of us who had the privilege to be in his presence must continue to do."  

“Our nation has lost a true leader and wonderful man," said ACA Connects president Matthew Polka. "ACA Connects mourns the loss of Rep. John Lewis and his iconic voice, but our prayer is that we will carry on with his example before us by working together, finding common ground, and respecting each other in all ways.” 

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.