As a student at Fisk University in Tennessee, Lewis helped organize sit-ins at segregated lunch counters. He was one of the original Freedom Riders in 1961, taking buses from the North to the Deep South to protest segregation at interstate bus terminals.
At 23, Lewis was the youngest person who spoke at the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. He was chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee at the time.
Calls have grown to rename the Edmund Pettus Bridge after Lewis, to honor the man who was arguably a lion in the fight for equality. A petition began in June by political strategist Michael Starr Hopkins, who told NBC News at the time that the idea came to him while watching Ava DuVernay’s “Selma” following days of protesting.
But Lewis’ death amplified the call to rename the bridge, which currently honors a Confederate general and KKK leader.
Selma officials, however, oppose the name change, according to the Associated Press. Alabama state Rep. Prince Chestnut, whose legislative district includes Selma, said it would be inappropriate to rename the bridge for Lewis alone.
“There were many Selmians and Alabamians who were either on the bridge in March 1965, near the vicinity or precipitated the situation that changed this country for the better. John was not the only one,” Chestnut said in a statement to The Associated Press.