• Reuters

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Democratic Rep. John Lewis, a hero of the U.S. civil rights movement, said on Sunday he had been diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer.

Lewis, 79, who endured beatings by white police and mobs during the 1960s civil rights movement and won further respect as a foremost black member of the U.S. Congress for more than three decades, said he was “clear-eyed” about the severity of his diagnosis.

“I have never faced a fight quite like the one I have now,” Lewis said in a statement.

Lewis, an Alabama sharecropper’s son first elected in 1986 as a Democrat to the U.S. House of Representatives from Georgia, said he would return to Washington in the coming days to begin treatment.

“I may miss a few votes during this period, but with God’s grace I will be back on the front lines soon,” he said.

Lewis was a protégé of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. He led sit-ins to integrate all-white lunch counters, was one of the original “Freedom Riders” who integrated buses, and suffered a skull fracture in a beating by a nightstick-wielding white state trooper during a 1965 march in Selma, Alabama, for black voting rights.

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