John Robert Lewis Modern day “David” Voting/Civil Rights Icon – Fought a Good Fight & Finished His Course
Lewis was born on February 21, 1940, in Troy, Alabama. He was influenced early in life by the Montgomery Bus Boycott, the courage of Rosa Parks and the speeches and marches lead by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, and the Civil Rights Movement as a whole.
Lewis was often scolded and warned by his parents and grandparents (great-grandfather) not to agitate or to get involved in local unrest….However Lewis was determined and by the time he entered college, he was ready and willing to sacrifice mind, body and limb for the struggle.
While a student at the American Baptist College in Nashville (1961), Lewis began organizing student-sit-ins to protest segregated lunch counters in the South.
Lewis volunteered and participated in Freedom Rides throughout the South (1961) to promote and encourage voter registration/awareness. He was beaten and jailed often.
Following his graduation from Fisk University in 1967, he met the love of his life at a New Year’s Eve party. He married Lillian Miles, the following year, and the couple was together for 44 years until her death in 2012. The couple adopted a son John Miles.
In 1981, Lewis was elected to the Atlanta City Council a position he held for five years. While serving on the Council, he was an advocate for ethics in government and neighborhood preservation.
Encouraged by his wife, Lewis successfully ran and was elected to Congress in November 1986 and began a career as Georgia’s fifth Congressional District Representative.
Lewis steadfast commitment to Civil/Human Rights earned him the rank of Senior Chief Deputy Whip for the Democratic Party in leadership in the House, a member of the House Ways & Means Committee, a member of its Subcommittee on Income Security and Family Support, and Ranking Member of its Subcommittee on Oversight. Lewis was often the voice of conscience.
Lewis has been awarded over 50 honorary degrees from various colleges and universities throughout the United States, including several HBCUs as well as Harvard, Brown, Princeton and Columbia Universities as well.
John Lewis was the recipient of numerous awards from national and international institutions, including the highest civilian honor, the Medal of Freedom presented to him by former President Barack Obama in 2011.
Lewis also received the Lincoln Medal from the historic Ford’s Theatre, the Golden Plate Award given by the Academy of Excellence, the Preservation Hero award given by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the Capital Award of the National Council of La Raza, and the Martin Luther King, Jr, Non-Violent Peace Prize; the President’s Medal of Georgetown University; and the NAACP Spingarn Medal.
John Lewis is the co-author the New York Times bestselling graphic novel memoir trilogy MARCH, written with Andrew Ayden and illustrated by Nate Powell.
The MARCH series is used in schools across the country to teach Civil Rights to 21st century students and advocates for Civil, Human and Voting Rights, as well as 1st-Year common reading text at several colleges and universities including; Michigan State University, Georgia State University, Marquette University, University of Utah, and Washburn University, to list a few of the colleges utilizing March.
The first volume of MARCH, Book One, received a 2014 American Library Association (ALA) Coretta Scott King Book Award Author Honor; an ALA Notable Children’s Book designation, and was named one of YALSA’s 2014 Top Ten Great Graphic Novels for Teens, thus becoming the first graphic novel ever to receive a Robert F. Kennedy Book Award.
MARCH: Book Two was released in 2015 and immediately became both a New York Times and Washington Post bestseller.
Lewis also authored Across That Bridge: Life Lessons and a Vision for Change, written with Brenda Jones, which was the winner of the 2012 NAACP Image Award for Best Literary Work-Biography.
His biography, published in 1998, is entitled Walking With the Wind: A Memoir of the Movement. Written with Michel D’Orso.
Two books written about Lewis’ life are entitled, Freedom Riders: John Lewis and Jim Zwerg on the Front Lines of the Civil Rights Movement, by Ann Bausum and John Lewis in the Lead, by Jim Haskins and Kathleen Benson, with illustrations by Bennie Andrews.
The heartbeat and conscience of the U.S. Congress, John Lewis. One who believed in getting into Good Trouble has finished his course. Rest in peace and power!