Shelby County Schools grad cherishes recent personal letter from late Rep. John Lewis

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — As the world mourns the loss of Rep. John Lewis, who died after battling pancreatic cancer for months, a Shelby County Schools graduate inspired by his work will carry a piece of the icon with him forever.

Overton High School alumnus Carl Hess created a portrait of Rep. Lewis to celebrate a man who he said inspired him so much.

“I really thought about, how do I want to commemorate him and to make this a special piece,” Hess said.

The portrait artist wanted to capture the past and present, so he stepped outside of his comfort zone and used unique techniques to show the civil rights icon in critical phases of his life.

But Hess didn’t expect to capture the attention of the congressman, who sent him a personalized letter just a few weeks before his death.

“That one piece of paper, obviously it’s bigger than a sheet of paper,” Hess said. “It really talks about his character, as busy and we can only imagine how busy he was, especially toward the later part of his years.”

Lewis was a man who poured into others until the very end, and Hess said he really found his voice during his time in the art program at Overton High. It inspired him to help develop others as a high school art teacher now.

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