With tears, Congress honors Lewis, ‘conscience of the House’

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FILE – This June 16, 2010 file photo, Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., participates in a ceremony to unveil two plaques recognizing the contributions of enslaved African Americans in the construction of the United States Capitol on Capitol Hill in Washington. Lewis, who carried the struggle against racial discrimination from Southern battlegrounds of the 1960s to the halls of Congress, has died. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi confirmed his passing late Friday, July 17, 2020. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The House on Monday stood for an emotional moment of silence for Georgia Rep. John Lewis, the civil rights icon who died last week from pancreatic cancer.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi gaveled the House to order, calling on “all who loved John Lewis, wherever you are, rise in a moment of silence in remembrance of the conscience of the Congress.”

Several people on the dais wept as the House stood in silence, heads bowed. When Pelosi tried to move on, those gathered interrupted with sustained applause.

“Our hero, our colleague, our brother, our friend received and answered his final summons from God almighty,” said Rep. Sanford Bishop, the dean of the Georgia delegation.

Lewis, 80, died Friday, several months after he was diagnosed with advanced pancreatic cancer. The son of sharecroppers, Lewis survived a brutal police beating during a 1965 civil rights march in Selma, Alabama. He represented Georgia in the House since 1987, and was known for his kindness and humility.

“Our nation has indeed lost a giant,” said Rep. Tom Graves, R-Ga.

Earlier, Pelosi choked up recalling their last conversation the day before he died.

“It was a sad one,” Pelosi said of their conversation Thursday. “We never talked about his dying until that day.”

She recalled on “CBS This Morning” how the civil rights icon also threw his clout to women’s rights, LGBTQ rights and many other causes.

“He always worked on the side of the angels, and now he is with them,” Pelosi said.

It was not yet clear whether Lewis’s casket would lie in the Capitol Rotunda to allow people to pay their respects. The Capitol is closed to the public during the coronavirus pandemic.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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