APHA mourns passing of John Lewis, civil rights and public health champion

Date: Jul 18 2020

Contact: Media Relations 

Statement from APHA Executive Director George C. Benjamin, MD

We are grief-stricken by the passing of U.S. Representative John Lewis, a fierce and eloquent champion of the civil rights movement. His stirring and booming voice was silenced on Friday after a six-month battle with cancer.

A two-time recipient of APHA’s Distinguished Legislator Award, he was our friend, a stirring orator and emphatic supporter of public health and all matters of resolve and non-violence to better the lives of all Americans.

As he told APHA Annual Meeting attendees in 2017, urging them to continuing to speak out against efforts to repeal or weaken the Affordable Care Act, "Public health means taking care of each and every single person, no matter their race, religion, region or income. It is serious work, a mission that will mean life or death. For this reason, we must never give up, never give in, when we're faced with the question of looking out for our brothers and sisters.

“Many of you know that I believe in my heart of hearts that health care is a right, not a privilege for the select few. As we look around, we realize that we are all in the same house, the American House, the world house, and we must do our part to preserve and restore this little planet that we call Earth.”

He reminded us then, and in the years before and since with his passionate advocacy for civil rights, that “justice will prevail.”

Our hearts go out to his family, friends and colleagues and those whose spirit resonates with his lifetime fight for such justice.

John Lewis’ legacy of courage and passion for justice and equality are etched in our souls, and can only help guide us in our commitment to carry on the causes he stood for.


The American Public Health Association champions the health of all people and all communities. We are the only organization that combines a nearly 150-year perspective, a broad-based member community and the ability to influence federal policy to improve the public’s health. Learn more at www.apha.org.