The 2016 Liberty Medal was awarded on Monday to U.S. Rep. John Lewis.
Lewis, who, along with Hosea Williams, led the 1965 march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama on “Bloody Sunday,” was recognized for his courageous dedication to civil rights and the Constitution. The ceremony took place at the National Constitution Center on Independence Mall, and was the 28th annual event since it was established in 1988 to honor men and women of courage and conviction who strive to secure the blessings of liberty to people around the globe.
ABC News’ “Nightline” co-anchor Byron Pitts served as moderator for the event, which featured a performance by the Mother Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church Choir. Other participants for the evening included Mayor Jim Kinney, former Gov. Ed Rendell, Cynthia MacLeoud of the National Historic Park Superintendent, Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund and Amy Gutmann, president of the University of Pennsylvania.
Established in 1988 to commemorate the bicentennial of the U.S. Constitution, the Liberty Medal was also awarded to Nelson Mandela, Sandra Day O’Connor, Kofi Annan, Shimon Peres and Colin Powell. He was youngest speaker for the March on Washing along with Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1962.
Prior to the Award ceremony on Monday, Lewis visited the abandoned, boarded-up rowhouse at 753 Walnut Street in Camden that was home to once home to Martin Luther King Jr. King reportedly stayed there from 1948 to 1951 when he studied at Crozer Theological Seminary in Upland, Pennsylvania. Historians say that it was during this period when reports say he staged his first sit-in in 1950 at a Maple Shade restaurant where he was denied service.
Lewis joined New Jersey Congressman Donald Norcross in Camden, New Jersey for discussions on gun violence and to support the restoration and historic designation of the property, according to a news release from the office of Rep. Norcross.
Rep. Lewis, who worked side-by-side with Dr. King during the civil rights movement of the 1960s and was a pivotal figure in the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, told a crowd gathered in front of the Camden home, “The work Dr. King started decades ago is still unfinished. This property, which stands now as a simple row home, can serve as a touchstone for generations to come as they learn about Dr. King and his deeds to make our country stronger and more inclusive.”