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Pence marks the death of John Lewis: 'May his example ever inspire'

Pence marks the death of John Lewis: 'May his example ever inspire'
© Stefani Reynolds

Vice President Pence on Saturday marked the death of civil rights icon and longtime congressman Rep. John LewisJohn LewisReporter's essay: Capitol attack was a community invasion, not just an insurrection Georgia House to consider replacing Confederate statue with statue of John Lewis 'I saw my life flash before my eyes': An oral history of the Capitol attack MORE (D-Ga.), saying Lewis’s “selflessness and conviction rendered our nation into a more perfect union.”

“While John Lewis will be rightly remembered as an icon of the civil rights movement, for me he was also a colleague and a friend,” Pence wrote.

Pence noted that while the two men “differed,” Lewis was “always unfailingly kind.”

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The lawmaker died on Friday at the age of 80 after a decades-long career marked by civil rights activism and public service.

On March 7, 1965, Lewis and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference’s Hosea Williams led about 600 people planning to march 54 miles from Selma, Ala., to Montgomery, Ala., to advocate for expanded voting rights for African Americans. But they were met on the Edmund Pettus Bridge by state troopers who demanded that the marchers leave.

When they refused, the troopers launched violent attacks using bullwhips, tear gas and nightsticks and charged at the marchers with their horses. A state trooper beat Lewis with a nightstick so severely that it caused a skull fracture.

As a congressman, Lewis led annual delegations to Selma to commemorate "Bloody Sunday" and educate his fellow lawmakers on the civil rights movement.

Pence joined one of those delegations in 2010 to commemorate the 45th anniversary while he was serving in the U.S. House as a representative from Indiana.

He said Saturday that his family will never forget the “privilege” of crossing the bridge by Lewis’s side.

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“Karen and I send our prayers and deepest sympathies to his family and friends and all who mourn the passing of this good and great man. May God bless the memory of John Lewis and may his example ever inspire,” the vice president concluded.

President TrumpDonald TrumpCIA chief threatened to resign over push to install Trump loyalist as deputy: report Azar in departure letter says Capitol riot threatens to 'tarnish' administration's accomplishments Justice Dept. argues Trump should get immunity from rape accuser's lawsuit MORE on Saturday issued a proclamation ordering flags to fly at half-staff as “a mark of respect for the memory and longstanding public service” of Lewis.

However, Trump has not yet commented publicly on the death of Lewis, with whom he had a contentious relationship throughout his presidency.

Shortly after the president arrived at his private golf course in Sterling, Va., on Saturday, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany issued a statement praising Lewis’s legacy.

“Rep. John Lewis was an icon of the civil rights movement, and he leaves an enduring legacy that will never be forgotten. We hold his family in our prayers, as we remember Rep. John Lewis’ incredible contributions to our country,” McEnany tweeted. 

Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.), the chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, urged Trump to remain silent on Lewis's death, suggesting his remarks would serve as an unwanted distraction.

.@realDonaldTrump while the nation mourns the passing of a national hero, please say nothing. Please don’t comment on the life of Congressman Lewis. Your press secretary released a statement, leave it at that,” she tweeted. “Please let us mourn in peace.”