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ST. LOUIS, MO (KTVI) – Washington University honored iconic civil rights leader John Lewis during Friday’s commencement ceremony. The tribute seems especially fitting since today marks 55-years since Lewis and other Freedom Riders were brutally beaten by segregationists at a bus station in Montgomery,

Civil rights pioneer John Lewis delivered an emotional commencement speech at Washington University. Lewis and hundreds of people fighting for the right to vote were attacked by Alabama State troopers while trying to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge.

“I was beaten, yes. Several times. Left bloodied, but I didn`t give up. I didn`t become bitter. The way of peace. The way of love. The way of nonviolence is a much better way.” said John Lewis.

The event became known as “Bloody Sunday” and lead to the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Lewis encouraged members of the class of 2016 to be leaders, to vote, and to stand for what`s right.

“Whatever comes their way they must use their education and training to go forward to build not just an American community but a world community at peace with itself.” said John Lewis.

He was presented with a Doctor of Humane Letters, honorary degree.

Congressman John Lewis is the last living member of the “Big Six” civil rights leaders who organized the historic march on Washington on August 28, 1963. That’s the day Dr. King delivered his, “I have a dream speech.”

Lewis also spoke that day. He was the youngest leader to address the crowd.