As the news emerged late Friday that Representative John Lewis had died, praise for the civil rights icon began to pour in from American political leaders who had known him for decades.
“We have lost a giant,” former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in a joint statement. “John Lewis gave all he had to redeem America’s unmet promise of equality and justice for all, and to create a place for us to build a more perfect union together.”
Hakeem Jeffries, chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, wrote that Mr. Lewis had “altered the course of history and left America a much better place.”
“We have lost a legendary leader, civil rights icon and change agent extraordinaire,” Mr. Jeffries wrote.
“John Lewis was a human saint,” Mike Espy, a former Democratic congressman and agriculture secretary who is running for Senate in Mississippi, wrote on Twitter. “I was lucky enough to be his classmate and friend. America has lost a hero.”
Justin Amash, the Libertarian congressman from Michigan who left the Republican Party last year, remembered Mr. Lewis on Twitter as “gentle and strong and kind.” He added, “His message was justice, and his voice was powerful. May his memory be eternal.”
In a Twitter thread, Representative Ilhan Omar, Democrat of Minnesota and one of the first two Muslim women in Congress, called Mr. Lewis a civil rights legend and a “moral voice for the whole nation.”
When Ms. Omar arrived in the capital for freshman orientation, she recalled in 2018, she ran into Mr. Lewis and burst into tears. “I said to him, ‘Sir, I read about you in middle school, and you’re here in the flesh, and I get to be your colleague,’” she said during a tearful interview.
In her Twitter thread on Friday, Ms. Omar reflected further on her interactions with Mr. Lewis in Washington.
“He called me ‘daughter’ and would tell me how incredible it was for me to be in Congress and visit Africa with him as his colleague,” she wrote. “He never lost his youthful joy and passion for democracy.”
Mr. Lewis announced in December that he had Stage 4 pancreatic cancer and vowed to fight it with the same passion with which he had battled racial injustice.
He welcomed the recent demonstrations against systemic racism and the police killings of Black people, seeing them as a continuation of his life’s work.
Michael Hardaway, a spokesman for Mr. Jeffries, said in an interview early Saturday morning that he had dropped by to see Mr. Lewis last year, and that they had spoken about social injustice on President Trump’s watch.
Mr. Lewis, Mr. Hardaway said, “was unworried. He told me we will win. And that young people will lead the way. The last thing he said was, ‘Be hopeful. Be optimistic. Be brave.’”