PANAMA CITY Fla. (WMBB) — After the death of civil rights activist and congressman John Lewis, the people of Panama City were looking for a way to honor his life.
They decided to do that through art.
At Tuesday’s City of Panama City commission meeting, Mayor Greg Brudnicki announced that August 25 will now be known as “John Lewis day” in Panama City and an original portrait of Mr. Lewis will hang high in city hall.
“I owe this guy a lot,” said George Smith. “We owe this guy a lot and I felt it was proper to honor him in any way we could.”
Smith came to artist Richard Steele about creating this work of art. Steele quickly took on the project as part of his civil rights painting series. He says he hopes as the painting hangs in city hall it will encourage generations to learn about Lewis’ legacy.
“They’ll google or get on a website and find out just who this guy is on the painting,” said Steele. “Why is he hanging in city hall? What does he symbolize?”
Steele has been an artist since he was young and is honored to create a piece with such meaning for history. He says Lewis was a path maker, and a symbol of perseverance and courage.
“He just has such a presence about himself and I would really like to thank him for everything that he did for civil rights you know and being arrested over 40 times, for being beaten and you know being persecuted for a cause,” said Steele.
Steele says he wants everyone to remember that art matters. He says he believes everyone has a masterpiece in them that they will be remembered for and if his masterpiece is this painting he will be very proud of that.