Images of the peaceful demonstrators, including Lewis, being beaten by police circulated widely in the days and weeks following the events and still resonate today.
Lewis, who later served more than three decades in the House, had returned to the bridge annually to reenact the march with fellow lawmakers and community leaders.
The call from Clyburn, the House majority whip and senior member of the Congressional Black Caucus, adds momentum to long-standing efforts to rename the bridge. Pettus, its namesake, was a Confederate brigadier general and U.S. senator before becoming the grand dragon of the Alabama Ku Klux Klan.
The renewed push comes as the debate over monuments to the Confederacy amplifies in the wake of nationwide protests against systemic racism and police brutality.
“I think they will take a nice picture of that bridge with Pettus’ name on it, put it in a museum somewhere, dedicate it to the Confederacy, and then rename that bridge, and repaint it — redecorate it — the John R. Lewis Bridge,” Clyburn added. “I believe that will give the people of Selma something to rally around.”