U.S. Rep. John Lewis walks in a procession during Harvard University commencement exercises in Cambridge, Massachusetts, May 24, 2018. The Civil rights icon has been hospitalized for undisclosed reasons. Citing a statement from Lewis' office, WSB-TV reports that the 78-year-old Georgia congressman was "resting comfortably" in a hospital Saturday night for "routine observation." The statement says Lewis expects to be released Sunday. Credit: Michael Dwyer | AP

Rep. John Lewis — the 78-year-old Georgia Democrat who played a pivotal role in the civil rights movement — has been hospitalized after suffering a medical emergency, according to local news reports.

Lewis fell ill on a plane while flying home to Atlanta on Saturday, WSB-TV reported. He had been expected at an event that afternoon.

In a statement to the TV station, the congressman’s office described his hospital stay as “routine observation” but released no details about what sent him there.

“He’s resting comfortably and expects to be released tomorrow,” the statement read.

Lewis’s political legacy dates to the era of racial segregation, when “he was arrested, brutally beaten and continually bore witness to death in the pursuit of equality under the law for African-Americans,” as Jonathan Capehart wrote for The Washington Post.

The son of black sharecroppers, he became one of the original Freedom Riders fighting for racial integration. He spoke at the March on Washington as a young man in 1963 and has served as Congress’s living link to the civil rights battles since he first won office in 1986, representing Georgia’s 5th Congressional District.

There was no response to an inquiry to Lewis’ spokeswoman on Sunday morning.

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