The DeKalb County Board of Commissioners approved the resolution on Friday, six months after a judge ordered the removal of the 30-foot obelisk honoring Confederate soldiers, The Champion reported.
“The area that once held the obelisk monument is unique as it sits wholly, both in the Congressional District Mr. Lewis represented for over 33 years and in DeKalb County, Georgia, and in the City of Decatur, the county seat,” the resolution states.
Amid the protests which followed the killing of George Floyd last year, DeKalb County demonstrators joined the global effort to remove controversial monuments. While the protests continued throughout the summer, DeKalb County formed The John Lewis Commemorative Task Force in August. The group led the effort to replace the county’s Confederate monument with a statue of the civil rights icon who died in July at age 80.
“John was a giant of a man, with a humble heart,” DeKalb County Commissioner Mereda Davis Johnson told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “He met no strangers and he truly was a man who loved the people and who loved his country, which he represented very well. He deserves this honor.”
Lewis was arrested at least 45 times throughout the civil rights era, part of what he called “good trouble,” as Blavity previously reported. His death came 50 years after he almost lost his life on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, where he was brutally attacked by police while fighting for the right to vote.
The congressman served in various capacities during the civil rights era, including leading the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. He was also one of the original Freedom Riders in 1961 and the youngest leader of the 1963 March on Washington.
Lewis earned a U.S. House seat in Georgia in 1986 and remained a member of Congress until his passing.
“America was built by John Lewises. He as much as anyone in our history has brought this country a little bit closer to our highest ideals,” former President Barack Obama said during the memorial service for the congressman, as Blavity previously reported. “When we do form a more perfect union, whether its years from now, or decades, or even a few centuries, John Lewis will be a founding father of that fuller, fairer, better America.”
The Beacon Hill Black Alliance for Human Rights representatives suggested for the new monument to portray the younger Lewis.
“It is our hope that because our youth played such an essential role in the removal of the [Confederate] monument, that a statue of the young John Lewis during his [younger] years will be erected in the Decatur square,” the group stated at a July meeting. “This will be a reminder of how many young people have been a catalyst for change in the world. Where a monument once stood to intimidate and disenfranchise Black voters, soon will stand a statue of an American hero who gave his life to building the movement that ensures Black people have the right to vote.”