John Lewis Took One Final Congressional Action Hours Before His Death

Just a few hours before his passing, John Lewis took one final act as the U.S. representative. In a release shared on Friday, Lewis (D-GA) and fellow U.S. rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) led a bipartisan group of Congress members to support grants for teachers. In a letter sent to Betsy DeVos, the U.S. Education Secretary, the duo and 153 of their peers voiced support for the Center for Civic Education's grant applications.

The center is requesting funds for their Supporting Effective Educator Development (SEED) Program, which would "provide teachers with professional development in the fields of elementary, middle, and high school civics and government across the country." The total is requested grants is $25.9 million.

"There is universal agreement that improving student outcomes in civics or any subject field takes dedication, commitment, and perseverance. Educating America's youth – the next generation of leaders of our country – on the principles enshrined in our Nation's founding documents, including the Declaration of Independence, the United States Constitution, and the Bill of Rights – is critical," the letter read. "For these reasons, the Center is applying for new SEED Program grants for its Strengthening Democracy in America: A Professional Development for Secondary and School Teachers (SDA) proposal, as well as its James Madison Constitution Democracy Project (JMCDP) proposal.

"If funded, these two programs would build on the success of the Center's previous work that was funded through the 2015 SEED Program grant, allowing for continued evidence-based teacher professional development in civics and government to continue improving student outcomes in these subjects."

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This bipartisan effort is a fitting way for Lewis' career to end. The civil rights icon died Friday night as a result of pancreatic cancer. He was 80. On Saturday, McCarthy paid tribute to Lewis, who he described as "a patriot," an extraordinary man" and his friend. He also shared his memories of marching with him during visits to Selma, Alabama, in honor of the Civil Rights Movement. Selma had a special meaning to Lewis, as he led the march on what would be known as "Bloody Sunday." State troopers brutally attacked hundreds of protesters, including Lewis, on Selma's Edmund Pettus Bridge.