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Alabama state legislature passes bill to name part of highway after John Lewis

Alabama state legislature passes bill to name part of highway after John Lewis
© Aaron Schwartz

The Alabama state legislature on Thursday moved legislation forward that would rename a portion of U.S. Highway 80 in the state after the late congressman and civil rights icon John LewisJohn LewisGarland vows fight against voting limits that violate law Black Republican advocates his case for CBC membership Manchin insists he supports voting rights — we'll see MORE (D-Ga.).

The bill, which would name the portion of the highway that runs from Selma to Montgomery, Ala., “The John R. Lewis Memorial 10 Highway,” was passed Thursday by the state legislature. 

The legislation will go to Alabama Gov. Kay IveyKay IveyAlabama's GOP Gov. Kay Ivey to seek reelection Vaccination tracking apps ineffective, amplify inequalities, pose privacy issues: report Overnight Health Care: WHO renaming COVID-19 variants | Moderna applies for full vaccine approval | 1.1M NY vaccine passports downloaded since launch MORE (R) for signature before signs and markers can be placed along the highway officially designating the name change. 

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The bill, sponsored by Alabama state Rep. Prince Chestnut (D), recognizes Lewis’s leadership in the civil rights movement, including his role as one of the 13 original Freedom Riders who participated in protests against the segregation of public bus terminals. 

The bill also recounts Lewis's service as “Chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), and his leadership of over 600 peaceful protestors across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma where he was brutally attacked by Alabama State Troopers on March 7, 1965," a day known as "Bloody Sunday.” 

Michael Starr Hopkins, founder of the John Lewis Bridge Project, commended the bill’s passing in a statement, saying the bill moved the state “one step closer to ensuring the legacy of John Lewis will live on for generations.” 

“We look forward to the next step and encourage Governor Ivey to sign this bill into law as soon as possible,” he added, according to local newspaper Selma Sun

Hopkins launched the Bridge Project in June 2020 with a goal of changing the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma to the “John Lewis Bridge.”

“When we started the John Lewis Bridge Project, just under a year ago, the response was incredible and humbling,” Hopkins said in his statement.

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He went on to say, “From every corner of the nation thousands of individuals, from all walks of life, joined the effort to honor the great John Lewis. ”

Lewis passed away last year after serving decades in Congress as a representative for Georgia. 

The bill’s passage comes just days after the 60th anniversary of Lewis and 12 others leaving on a bus from Washington, D.C., to New Orleans on their first Freedom Ride. 

On Tuesday, the Alabama Historical Commission unveiled a restored Greyhound bus that had been in service at the time of the protests during a ceremony at its Freedom Rides Museum in Montgomery. 

The bus now contains artifacts and a soundscape exhibit that will become a permanent component of the museum.