Democratic congressman John Lewis, an icon in the fight for civil rights, announced Sunday he has stage 4 pancreatic cancer.
“I have been in some kind of fight — for freedom, equality, basic human rights — for nearly my entire life. I have never faced a fight quite like the one I have now,” Lewis said in a statement.
“So I’ve decided to do what I know to do and what I have always done: I am going to fight and jeep fighting…we still have many bridges to cross,”
Lewis said he is “clear-eyed” about the prognosis and that his doctors tell him he has a fighting chance.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi tweeted that “generations of Americans” have Lewis in their thoughts and prayers, saying she knows he will be well.
The 79-year-old Lewis has represented the 5th Congressional District in Georgia since 1986 and has been a stalwart for liberal causes and human rights.
But Lewis is best known has a tireless fighter for civil rights — he marched with Martin Luther King in the early 1960s, sat down at segregated lunch counters, and was the victim of police nightsticks and billy clubs, suffering from a fractured skull.
Lewis was an original Freedom Rider, traveling on busses across the south as part of the battle for integration.