The founder of Amazon, Jeff Bezos, has donated $100 million to the Obama Foundation in honor of the civil rights icon, Rep. John Lewis, the foundation announced on Monday.
According to USA Today, the donation is the biggest individual contribution to date and the business mogul has requested as part of the donation that the Plaza at the Obama Presidential Center be named after Lewis.
“Freedom fighters deserve a special place in the pantheon of heroes, and I can’t think of a more fitting person to honor with this gift than John Lewis, a great American leader and a man of extraordinary decency and courage,” said Bezos in a statement on Monday.
“I’m thrilled to support President and Mrs. Obama and their Foundation in its mission to train and inspire tomorrow’s leaders.”
President of the Obama Foundation and a former senior advisor to President Obama, Valerie Jarrett, hailed the donation.
“We believe that there is incredible power in lifting up the names of extraordinary change agents upon whose shoulders we all stand, and we are thrilled by Mr. Bezos’ offer to name our magnificent Plaza in honor of John Lewis,” she noted in a statement.
She added that Bezos’ gift will enable the Obama Foundation to help train new generations of leaders through programs including the Girls Opportunity Alliance, My Brother’s Keeper, and our Global Leaders Program.
Lewis, who is celebrated by many in America due to his frontline involvement in the civil rights struggle of the 1960s, passed away at the age of 80 in July 2020 after a battle with pancreatic cancer.
In a tribute, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) said Lewis “left a permanent impression on our nation and world.”
Former President Barack Obama also condoled with Lewis’ family, adding that “Not many of us get to live to see our own legacy play out in such a meaningful, remarkable way. John Lewis did.”
Lewis represented Georgia’s 5th district which covered much of Atlanta. He came to national prominence in the 1960s as part of the campaign to push equal rights for America’s Black people.
Lewis was the last surviving member of the “Big Six” civil rights activists. Members of the “Big Six” were Martin Luther King Jr, James Farmer, Whitney Young, Roy Wilkins, Asa Philip Randolph, and Lewis.
Lewis, who became a best-selling author, was in 2011 awarded the nation’s highest civilian award, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, by Obama.