Flags at the White House and on Capitol Hill in Washington in the US have been lowered to half-staff following the death of Congressman John Lewis – an icon of the civil rights movement and one of America’s heroes. He passed away Friday at the age of 80 after announcing in December that he had stage-four pancreatic cancer.

The news was confirmed by House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Pelosi described the former Congressman as a titan of the civil rights movement whose goodness, faith and bravery transformed the nation from his determination in the fight against discrimination and the moral leadership he brought to Congress for more than 30 years as representative from Atlanta Georgia.

Former US ambassador to SA, Patrick Gaspard says he feels blessed to have known Lewis and worked with him.

“He was a personal friend, he was a mentor. He was someone that I had the good privilege, the blessing to have known. John Lewis put his kind and gentle hand on my shoulder, steered me right. He’s always say remember, we have an obligation never to stoop as low as the enemies of freedom, the enemies of justice, the enemies of democracy and we had to hold ourselves with the grace and dignity that would push back against their brutality and at the end that love would win out.”

In the video below, Dr David Molapo pays tribute to Lewis:

Along with Martin Luther King `Jr, he was an organiser of the March on Washington in 1963, regarded as a seminal moment that led to voting rights for black people in 1965. He was arrested, beaten and jailed for challenging Jim Crow laws and became a national figure more than more than 50 years ago.

Former President Barack Obama -who awarded Lewis the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011 – called him exceptional, and a man who will continue, even in passing, to serve as a beacon in the journey towards a more perfect union.

In the video below, Ambassador Gaspard speaks about Lewis’ legacy: