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Nashville celebrates the life of Rep. John Lewis 1 year after passing

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NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) - Saturday marked one year since the death of civil rights activist Rep. John Lewis and all weekend the city will be honoring him and his impact here in Nashville. 

"John Lewis was not only a pillar for the civil rights movement, he was a promise of the civil rights movement," an attendee told News4.

After new historic signs and markers were unveiled Friday to honor the impact of Lewis, Nashville celebrated his life at the Ryman Auditorium on Saturday. Residents across Nashville came out including former Vice President Al Gore. 

Saturday marked the one-year anniversary of his passing, and Gore spoke during the event with other esteemed guests including award-winning author Jon Meacham and Lewis' longtime mentor, Rev. James Lawson.

One of the culminating events celebrating the life and legacy of John Lewis was held inside of the Ryman Auditorium. The four-hour long event featured guest speakers, various song selections, and honoring Lewis’s life work.

Gore spoke about Lewis’s connection to Nashville and how it was one of the places in the south where the Civil Rights Movement gained its momentum.

Former Vice President Al Gore speaks at Saturday's Rep. John Lewis Celebration of Life at the Ryman Auditorium.

“The roots of social progress in Nashville took hold in significant measures because of the work of John Lewis, and Rev. Lawson, and so many others. I'm proud that Nashville has claimed to be one of the real centers of the civil rights movement in the united states of America,” said Gore.

Lewis’s connection to Nashville started during his collegiate years at Fisk University.

Lawson talked about how he developed his non-violence philosophy as he and many others were fighting for basic civil rights.

Civil Rights icon Rev. James Lawson speaks at the Rep. John Lewis celebration on Saturday.

“When I met him in 1958, he was looking for the power that would give his life massive meaning, give his life massive work to do, and I know of no one who did it well or as lovingly, cheerfully as did John Lewis,” said Lawson.

During the event, Mayor John Cooper and the Metro Council honored other Nashville Civil Rights Leaders giving them keys to the city.

“By the power invested in me and with the blessing and authorization of our city council it is my great honor to on the occasion of John Lewis Way to also recognize our civil rights heroes here in Nashville by the presentations of keys,” said Cooper.

Award-winning author Meacham also graced the stage and spoke on Lewis' life journey and accomplishments. Meacham authored the book entitled “His Truth Is Marching On: John Lewis and the Power of Hope.”

“He accomplished something in the squirmiest in our streets and in our cities and in our hearts that links him to the saints of ancient ages, with the revolutionaries of the 18th century, with the abolitionist and union soldiers of the 19th and with you the warriors of justice in the 21st,” said Meacham.

Producer for News4. A California transplant, Marshall uses west coast sunshine to shed light on Nashville's breaking news.

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