John Lewis, Towering Figure of Civil Rights Era, Dies at 80

But Mr. Lewis lost his family’s good will. When his parents learned that he had been arrested in Nashville, he wrote, they were ashamed. They had taught him as a child to accept the world as he found it. When he asked them about signs saying “Colored Only,” they told him, “That’s the way it is, don’t get in trouble.”

But as an adult, he said, after he met Dr. King and Rosa Parks, whose refusal to give up her bus seat to a white man was a flash point for the civil rights movement, he was inspired to “get into trouble, good trouble, necessary trouble.”

Getting into “good trouble” became his motto for life. A documentary film, “John Lewis: Good Trouble,” was released this month.

Despite the disgrace he had brought on his family, he felt that he had been “involved in a holy crusade” and that getting arrested had been “a badge of honor,” he said in an oral history interview in 1979 with Washington University.

In 1961, when he graduated from the seminary, he joined a Freedom Ride organized by the Congress of Racial Equality, known as CORE. He and others were beaten bloody when they tried to enter a whites-only waiting room at the bus station in Rock Hill, S.C. Later, he was jailed in Birmingham, Ala., and beaten again in Montgomery, where several others were badly injured and one was paralyzed for life.

“If there was anything I learned on that long, bloody bus trip of 1961,” he wrote in his memoir, “it was this — that we were in for a long, bloody fight here in the American South. And I intended to stay in the middle of it.”