America lost two civil rights icons in less than 24 hours, Rep John Lewis and Rev. C.T. Vivian

Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) died at the age of 80 after battling cancer for 6 months. The civil rights leader was one of the original Freedom Riders, helped organize the 1963 March on Washington and the voting-rights march in Selma, Alabama, and became a leading liberal voice for decades in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Lewis received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, from President Barack Obama in 2011. Two years earlier, he was awarded the Spingarn Medal by the NAACP, among many accolades for his civil rights and congressional work.

Rev. C.T. Vivian died of natural causes at the age of 95. He was an early and key adviser to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and organized the Freedom Rides that forced federal intervention across the South.

Obama, who honored Vivian with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2013, tweeted Friday that “he was always one of the first in the action — a Freedom Rider, a marcher in Selma, beaten, jailed, almost killed, absorbing blows in hopes that fewer of us would have to.”

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