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John Lewis (Georgia politician)

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John Lewis (Georgia politician)

John Lewis
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from 5th district
Assumed office
January 3, 1987
Preceded by Wyche Fowler
Chairperson of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee
In office
Preceded by Charles McDew
Succeeded by Stokely Carmichael
Personal details
Born John Robert Lewis
(1940-02-21) February 21, 1940
Troy, Alabama, U.S.
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Lillian Miles (1968–2012) (her death)
Children 1
Alma mater American Baptist College
Fisk University
Religion Baptist

John Robert Lewis (born February 21, 1940) is an American politician and civil rights leader. He is the Atlanta.

Lewis is the only living "U.S. Congress.

He is Senior Chief Deputy Whip, leading an organization of chief deputy whips and serves as the primary assistant to the Democratic Whip. He has held this position since 2007 and been on the whip team since 1991.


  • Early life 1
  • Civil rights activism 2
  • Early political career 3
  • U.S. House of Representatives 4
    • Elections 4.1
      • 1977 4.1.1
      • 1986 4.1.2
      • 1988–2014 4.1.3
    • Tenure 4.2
      • Overview 4.2.1
      • Charges about Tea Party using racial epithets 4.2.2
      • Protests 4.2.3
      • Endorsements 4.2.4
      • 2008 Presidential election 4.2.5
      • Occupy Atlanta meeting 4.2.6
      • Reflections on the Obama presidency and race relations 4.2.7
      • Election statistics 4.2.8
    • Committee assignments 4.3
    • Caucus membership 4.4
  • Biographies 5
  • Personal life 6
  • Honors 7
    • Honorary academic degrees 7.1
  • Electoral history 8
  • Bibliography 9
  • In popular culture 10
  • See also 11
  • References 12
  • Further reading 13
  • External links 14

Early life

Lewis was born in Troy, Alabama, the third son of Willie Mae (née Carter) and Eddie Lewis.[1] His parents were sharecroppers.[2] Lewis grew up in Pike County, Alabama. He also has a deaf brother named Edward. He has other siblings, including brothers Grant, Freddie, Sammy, Adolph, and William, and sisters named Ethel, Rosa, and Ora. He survived a tornado at the age of four with fourteen cousins. Lewis had only seen two white people in his life until age six.[3] Lewis was educated at the Pike County Training High School, Brundidge, Alabama, and also American Baptist Theological Seminary and at Fisk University, both in Nashville, Tennessee, where he became a leader in the Nashville sit-ins. While a student, he was invited to attend non-violence workshops held in the basement of Clark Memorial United Methodist Church by the Rev. James Lawson and Rev. Kelly Miller Smith. There he became a dedicated adherent to the discipline and philosophy of non-violence, which he still practices today. The Nashville sit-in movement was responsible for the desegregation of lunch counters in downtown Nashville. Lewis was arrested and jailed many times in the struggle to desegregate the downtown area of the city. Afterwards, he participated in the Freedom Rides sponsored by the Congress of Racial Equality or CORE, led by James Farmer and ultimately became a national leader in the struggle for civil rights and respect for human dignity.[2] In an interview, John Lewis said "I saw racial discrimination as a young child. I saw those signs that said 'White Men, Colored Men, White Women, Colored Women'. ... I remember as a young child with some of my brothers and sisters and first cousins going down to the public library trying to get library cards, trying to check some books out, and we were told by the librarian that the library was for whites only and not for 'coloreds'." During a rather dangerous childhood trip to Buffalo, NY, John saw for the first time black men and white men working together, unsegregated water fountains, and for the first time, John began to believe the dream of equality was more than just a dream. Lewis followed Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr and Rosa Parks on the radio. He and his family supported the Montgomery Bus Boycott.

Civil rights activism

John Lewis was the youngest of the Selma to Montgomery marches. As the chairman of SNCC, Lewis had written a speech in reaction to the Civil Rights Bill of 1963. He denounced the bill because it didn't protect African Americans against police brutality. It also did not provide African Americans the right to vote.

He graduated from the American Baptist Theological Seminary in Nashville and then received a bachelor's degree in Religion and Philosophy from Fisk University. As a student, Lewis was very dedicated to the boycotts and nonviolent protests in the fight for voter and racial equality.

In 1960, Lewis became one of the 13 original Freedom Riders. There were seven whites and six blacks who were determined to ride from Washington, DC, to New Orleans in an integrated fashion. At that time, several states of the old Confederacy still enforced laws prohibiting black and white riders from sitting next to each other on public transportation. The Freedom Ride, originated by the Fellowship of Reconciliation and revived by Farmer and CORE, was initiated to pressure the federal government to enforce the Supreme Court decision in Boynton v. Virginia (1960) that declared segregated interstate bus travel to be unconstitutional. In the South, Lewis and other nonviolent Freedom Riders were beaten by angry mobs, arrested at times and taken to jail. When CORE gave up on the Freedom Ride because of the violence, Lewis and fellow activist Diane Nash arranged for the Nashville students to take it over and bring it to a successful conclusion.

In 1963, when Chuck McDew stepped down as SNCC chairman, Lewis, one of the founding members of SNCC, was quickly elected to take over. Lewis's experience at that point was already widely respected. His courage and his tenacious adherence to the philosophy of reconciliation and non-violence made him emerge as a leader. By this time, he had been arrested 24 times in the nonviolent struggle for equal justice. He held the post of chairman until 1966.

Civil Rights March on Washington, D.C. (Leaders of the march)

By 1963, as chairman of SNCC, he was named one of the "March on Washington, along with Whitney Young, A. Phillip Randolph, James Farmer and Roy Wilkins. The occasion of Dr. King's celebrated "I Have a Dream" speech, Lewis also spoke at the March and is its last remaining living speaker. At 23 he was the youngest speaker that day.[4]

In 1964, Lewis coordinated SNCC's efforts for "Mississippi Freedom Summer," a campaign to register black voters across the South. The Freedom Summer was an attempt to expose college students from around the country to the perils of African-American life in the South. Lewis traveled the country encouraging students to spend their summer break trying to help people in Mississippi, the most recalcitrant state in the union, to register and vote. Lewis became nationally known during his prominent role in the Selma to Montgomery marches. On March 7, 1965 – a day that would become known as "Bloody Sunday" – Lewis and fellow activist Hosea Williams led over 600 marchers across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama. At the end of the bridge, they were met by Alabama State Troopers who ordered them to disperse. When the marchers stopped to pray, the police discharged tear gas and mounted troopers charged the demonstrators, beating them with night sticks. Lewis's skull was fractured, but he escaped across the bridge to Brown Chapel, the movement's headquarter church in Selma. Before Lewis could be taken to the hospital he appeared before the television cameras calling on President Johnson to intervene in Alabama. Lewis bears scars from the incident on his head that are still visible today.

Historian Kennedy Administration. But Lewis and his fellow SNCC workers had experienced, again and again, the strange passivity of the national government in the face of Southern violence."[5]

Lewis (far right) with Bayard Rustin, Andrew Young, Congressman William Fitts Ryan, and James L. Farmer, Jr.

"John Lewis and SNCC had reason to be angry. At 21 years old, John Lewis was the first of the Freedom Riders to be assaulted while in Rock Hill, South Carolina. He tried to enter a whites-only waiting room and two white men attacked him, injuring his face and kicking him in the ribs. Nevertheless, only two weeks later Lewis joined a Freedom Ride that was bound for Jackson. "We were determined not to let any act of violence keep us from our goal. We knew our lives could be threatened, but we had made up our minds not to turn back," Lewis said recently in regard to his perseverance following the act of violence.[6]

In an interview with CNN during the 40th anniversary of the Freedom Rides, Lewis recounted the sheer amount of violence he and the 12 other original Freedom Riders endured. In Anniston, Alabama, the bus was fire-bombed after Ku Klux Klan members deflated its tires, forcing it to come to a stop. In Birmingham, the Riders were mercilessly beaten, and in Montgomery, an angry mob met the bus, and Lewis was hit in the head with a wooden crate. "It was very violent. I thought I was going to die. I was left lying at the Greyhound bus station in Montgomery unconscious," said Lewis, remembering the incident.

Lewis at meeting of American Society of Newspaper Editors, 1964

The original intent of the Freedom Rides was to test the new law that banned segregation in public transportation. It also exposed the passivity of the government regarding violence against citizens of the country who were simply acting in accordance to the law.[7] The federal government had trusted the notoriously racist Alabama police to protect the Riders, but did nothing itself, except to have FBI agents take notes. The Kennedy Administration then called for a "cooling-off period", a moratorium on Freedom Rides.[5] Lewis had been imprisoned for forty days in the Mississippi State Penitentiary in Sunflower County, Mississippi, after participating in a Freedom Riders activity in that state.[8]

In February 2009, forty-eight years after he had been bloodied by the Ku Klux Klan during civil rights marches, Lewis received an apology on national television from a white southerner, former Klansman Elwin Wilson.[9][10]

After leaving SNCC in 1966, Lewis worked with community organizations and was named community affairs director for the National Consumer Co-op Bank in Atlanta.

Early political career

Before being elected to Atlanta City Council in 1981, Lewis faced "years of criticism as a holier-than-thou publicity seeker who challenged city leaders on ethical matters".[11] In the context of the "war on drugs", Lewis challenged Julian Bond to take a urine drug test during the 1986 Democratic runoff. The Houston Chronicle called it "perhaps the best-known example" of congressional candidates challenging their opponents to drug testing. The challenge could have served in Lewis' favor in his upset win as "there were signs that it may have damaged Bond among older black voters concerned about drug abuse among blacks".[12]

Lewis first ran for elected office in 1977, when a vacancy occurred in Jimmy Carter appointed incumbent U.S. Congressman Andrew Young to be U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. Lewis lost the race to Atlanta City Councilman and future U.S. Senator Wyche Fowler.

After his unsuccessful bid for Congress in 1977, Lewis was without a job and in debt from his campaign. He accepted a position with the Carter administration as associate director of ACTION, responsible for running the VISTA program, the Retired Senior Volunteer Program, and the Foster Grandparent Program. He held that job for two and a half years, resigning as the 1980 election approached.[13] In 1981, Lewis was elected to the Atlanta City Council.

U.S. House of Representatives



In January 1977, incumbent Democrat U.S. Congressman U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. under President Jimmy Carter. In the March 1977 open primary, Atlanta City Councilman Wyche Fowler, Jr. ranked first with 40% of the vote, failing to reach the 50% threshold to win outright. Lewis ranked second with 29% of the vote.[14] In the April election, Fowler defeated Lewis 62%–38%.[15]


After nine years as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, Fowler gave up the seat to make a successful run for the U.S. Senate. Lewis decided to run for the 5th district again. In the August Democratic primary—the real contest in this heavily Democratic, black-majority district—State Representative Julian Bond ranked first with 47%, just three points shy of winning outright. Lewis earned 35% in second place.[16] In the run-off, Lewis pulled an upset against Bond, defeating him 52%–48%.[17] In the November general election, he defeated Republican Portia Scott 75%–25%.[18]


John Lewis has been reelected 14 times. He has dropped below 70 percent of the vote only once. In 1994, he defeated Republican Dale Dixon by a 38-point margin, 69%–31%.[19] He even ran unopposed in 1996 and from 2004 to 2008.

He was challenged in the Democratic primary just twice: in 1992 and 2008. In 1992, he defeated State Representative Mable Thomas 76%–24%.[20] In 2008, Thomas decided to challenge Lewis again, as well as the Reverend Markel Hutchins. Lewis defeated Hutchins and Thomas 69%–16%-15%.[21]

On May 5, 2014, Lewis delivered the keynote address at the commencement exercises for the School of Visual Arts (SVA), urging the graduating artists to use their talents to fight injustice, saying, "You have a mandate to get out and disturb the order of things."[22] SVA honored Lewis with an Honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts.[23]



Lewis represents Fletcher Thompson, who left office Jan. 3, 1973 after a six-year stint; prior to Thompson, Democrats had held the district since James C. Freeman relinquished the seat in 1875 after serving a single two-year term.

Lewis is one of the most liberal members of the House, and one of the most liberal congressmen ever to represent a district in the Deep South. He has been labeled a "far-left Democratic leader" by GovTrack and a "Hard-Core Liberal" by Issues2000.[24][25] The Washington Post described Lewis in 1998 as "a fiercely partisan Democrat but ... also fiercely independent."[26] Lewis characterized himself as a strong and adamant liberal.[26] The Atlanta Journal-Constitution said Lewis was the "only former major civil rights leader who extended his fight for human rights and racial reconciliation to the halls of Congress".[11] The Atlanta Journal-Constitution also said that to "those who know him, from U.S. senators to 20-something congressional aides", he is called the "conscience of Congress".[11] Lewis has cited former Florida Senator and Congressman Claude Pepper, a staunch liberal, as being the colleague that he has most admired.[27] Lewis has spoken out in support of gay rights and national health insurance,[26] and he has worked with the Faith and Politics Institute to advance their goals.[28]

Lewis opposed the U.S. waging of the 1991 National Security Agency to conduct wiretaps without a warrant. Lewis said, "He is not King, he is president."[37]

Lewis draws on his historical involvement in the civil rights movement as part of his politics. He "makes an annual pilgrimage to Alabama to retrace the route he marched in 1965 from Selma to Montgomery – a route Lewis has since had declared part of the Historic National Trails program. That trip has become one of the hottest tickets in Washington among lawmakers, Republican and Democrat, eager to associate themselves with Lewis and the movement. 'We don't deliberately set out to win votes, but it's very helpful,' Lewis said of the trip".[11]

Charges about Tea Party using racial epithets

In March 2010, a report that Lewis and another black Congressman, Andre Carson, had been called nigger by Tea Party protesters outside the Capitol received media attention.[38][39] Some conservative sources criticized the claim, saying that no video showed up to prove the charges, and the videotapes of the event that later surfaced seemed to in fact disprove them. The New York Times issued a correction in July 2010, acknowledging that there was no evidence of Tea Party members hurling racial epithets at Lewis and Carson. Andrew Breitbart offered a $100,000 reward for anyone who could provide audio or video evidence of one of these instances, but none surfaced.[40]


In March 2003, Lewis spoke to a crowd of 30,000 in Oregon during an anti-war protest before the start of the Iraq War.[41] He was arrested in 2006[42] and 2009 and outside the Sudan embassy in protest against the genocide in Darfur.[43] He was one of eight U.S. Representatives, from six states, arrested while holding a sit-in near the west side of the U.S. Capitol building, to advocate for illegal immigration reform. The lawmakers' participation and subsequent arrest in the protest occurred despite the fact that the 2013 government shutdown was going on at the time.[44]


When Lewis was asked at a news conference whether he would support Joe Lieberman for re-election to the Senate in 2006 after Lieberman's loss to Ned Lamont in the Democratic primary, he simply said that Lieberman "was a good man." That was taken to mean that he endorsed Lieberman in the race. Actually he had been invited to Connecticut by another member of Congress and had made no plan to formally endorse Lieberman.[45] In the 2004 Presidential race, Lewis endorsed Senator John Kerry (Democrat).[46] Lewis was one of 31 House members who voted not to count the electoral votes from Ohio in the 2004 presidential election.[47]

2008 Presidential election

Lewis speaks during the final day of the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver, Colorado.

At first, Lewis supported Hillary Rodham Clinton, endorsing her presidential campaign on October 12, 2007.[48] On February 14, 2008, however, he announced he was considering withdrawing his support from Clinton and might instead cast his superdelegate vote for Barack Obama: "Something is happening in America and people are prepared and ready to make that great leap."[49] Ben Smith of Politico said that "it would be a seminal moment in the race if John Lewis were to switch sides."[50]

On February 27, 2008, Lewis formally changed his support and endorsed Obama.[51][52] After Obama clinched the Democratic nomination for president, Lewis said "If someone had told me this would be happening now, I would have told them they were crazy, out of their mind, they didn’t know what they were talking about ... I just wish the others were around to see this day. ... To the people who were beaten, put in jail, were asked questions they could never answer to register to vote, it's amazing."[53] Despite switching his support to Obama, Lewis' support of Clinton for several months led to criticism from his constituents. One of his challengers in the House

Non-profit organization positions
Preceded by
Charles McDew
Chairperson of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee
Succeeded by
Stokely Carmichael
United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Wyche Fowler
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Incumbent
United States order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded by
Peter DeFazio
United States Representatives by seniority
Succeeded by
Louise Slaughter

External links

  • Oral History Interview with John Lewis from Oral Histories of the American South, November 20, 1973
  • Walking With the Wind: A Memoir of the Movement interview with Lewis on Booknotes, July 12, 1998
  • "SNCC- People: John Lewis.", Apr 11, 2011
  • "Congressman John R Lewis." Apr 11, 2011

Further reading

  1. ^ Stated on Finding Your Roots, PBS, March 25, 2012
  2. ^ a b Reporting Civil Rights: American Journalism 1963–1973, Part Two Carson, Clayborne, Garrow, David, Kovach, Polsgrove, Carol (Editorial Advisory Board), (Library of America: February 2003) ISBN=978-1-931082-29-7 pp. 15–16, 48, 56, 84, 323, 374, 384, 392, 491–94, 503, 505, 513, 556, 726, 751, 846, 873
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^ a b
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^ Minor, Bill. "New law meant to eliminate existing ‘donut hole’." Desoto Times Tribune. Friday April 2, 2010. Retrieved August 14, 2010.
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^ a b c d e John Lewis: 'Conscience' carries clout: Civil rights icon's moral authority enhanced: [Main Edition] Kemper, Bob. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution [Atlanta, Ga] May 21, 2006: .1.
  12. ^ a b "Drugs offer theme for politics in 1986": Gailey, Phil. Houston Chronicle [Houston, Tex] Sep 9, 1986: 2.
  13. ^ Lewis, Walking with the Wind, pp. 446–451.
  14. ^ a b
  15. ^ a b
  16. ^
  17. ^ a b
  18. ^ a b
  19. ^
  20. ^
  21. ^
  22. ^ Herbowy, Greg (Fall 2014). "Q+A: Congressman John Lewis, Andrew Aydin & Nate Powell". Visual Arts Journal. pp. 48-51
  23. ^ a b Rhodes, David (Fall 2014). "From the President". Visual Arts Journal. p. 3
  24. ^
  25. ^
  26. ^ a b c d "Nonviolent Fighter; John Lewis Retraces the Route That Led to the Future": Carlson, Peter. The Washington Post [Washington, D.C] June 9, 1998: 01.
  27. ^
  28. ^ a b
  29. ^
  30. ^
  31. ^
  32. ^ "Social programs: world report. The wreck of the gravy train": Canada and the World Backgrounder 62. 2 (Oct1996): 3–34.
  33. ^
  34. ^ "Shared power, foreign policy, and Haiti, 1994. Public memories of war and race". Goodnight, G. Thomas; Olson, Kathryn M.; Rhetoric & Public Affairs 9. 4 (Winter 2006): 601–634.
  35. ^
  36. ^
  37. ^
  38. ^
  39. ^
  40. ^
  41. ^ "Tens of Thousands March Against Iraq War" Lichtblau, Eric. New York Times [New York, N.Y] Mar 16, 2003: 1.15.
  42. ^ "Lewis, 6 other lawmakers arrested in embassy protest": Kemper, Bob. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution [Atlanta, Ga] May 17, 2006: p. 3.
  43. ^
  44. ^
  45. ^
  46. ^ Rep. Lewis Welcomes Kerry's Showing All Things Considered March 2, 2004.
  47. ^
  48. ^
  49. ^
  50. ^
  51. ^
  52. ^
  53. ^
  54. ^
  55. ^
  56. ^
  57. ^
  58. ^ a b
  59. ^ Carter, Lauren, "Rep. John Lewis reflects on the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington, Our Time Press 18, no. 34, Aug. 22-28, 2013, p. 3.
  60. ^
  61. ^
  62. ^
  63. ^
  64. ^ , August 31, 2014U.S. Rep. John Lewis Discusses His Graphic Novel March
  65. ^
  66. ^
  67. ^
  68. ^
  69. ^ NAACP Spingarn Medal
  70. ^
  71. ^
  72. ^
  73. ^
  74. ^
  75. ^
  76. ^
  77. ^
  78. ^
  79. ^
  80. ^
  81. ^


See also

Lewis is portrayed by Stephan James in the 2014 film Selma.

In popular culture

  • Reporting Civil Rights: American Journalism 1963–1973 (Library of America: 2003) ISBN 1-931082-29-4
  • Walking with the Wind: A Memoir of the Movement by John Lewis with Mike D'Orso, (Harvest Books: 1999) ISBN 0-15-600708-8. The U.S. Congressman tells of life in the trenches of the Civil Rights movement, the numerous arrests, sit-ins, and marches that led to breaking down the barriers of discrimination in the South during the 1950s and 1960s.
  • John Lewis in the Lead: A Story of the Civil Rights Movement by Jim Haskins and Kathleen Benson, illustrated by Benny Andrews, (Lee & Low Books: 2006) ISBN 978-1-58430-250-6. A biography of John Lewis, one of the "Big Six" civil rights leaders of the 1960s, focusing on his involvement in Freedom Rides, the March on Washington, and the march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama.
  • John Lewis: From Freedom Rider to Congressman by Christine M. Hill, (Enslow Publishers, Inc., 2002) ISBN 0-7660-1768-0. A biography of John Lewis written for juvenile readers.
  • Freedom Riders: John Lewis and Jim Zwerg on the Frontlines of the Civil Rights Movement by Ann Bausum, (National Geographic Society, 2006) ISBN 0-7922-4173-8.
  • Across That Bridge by John Lewis with Brenda Jones, (Hyperion: 2012) ISBN 978-1-4013-2411-7.
  • March: Book One by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell, (Top Shelf Productions: 2013) ISBN 978-1-60309-300-2.


Year Democratic Votes % Republican Votes %
1986 John Lewis 93,229 75% Portia Scott 30,562 25%
1988 John Lewis 135,194 78% J. W. Tibbs 37,693 22%
1990 John Lewis 86,037 76% J. W. Tibbs 27,781 24%
1992 John Lewis 147,445 72% Paul Stabler 56,960 28%
1994 John Lewis 85,094 69% Dale Dixon 37,999 31%
1996 John Lewis 136,555 100% No candidate
1998 John Lewis 109,177 79% John H. Lewis 29,877 21%
2000 John Lewis 137,333 77% Hank Schwab 40,606 23%
2002 John Lewis 116,259 100% No candidate
2004 John Lewis 201,773 100% No candidate
2006 John Lewis 122,380 100% No candidate
2008 John Lewis 231,368 100% No candidate
2010 John Lewis 130,782 74% Fenn Little 46,622 26%
2012 John Lewis 234,330 84% Howard Stopeck 43,335 16%

Electoral history

Honorary academic degrees

On November 17, 2010, Lewis was awarded the First LBJ Liberty and Justice for All Award, given to him by the Lyndon Baines Johnson Foundation,[73] and the next year, Lewis was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama.[74]

Lewis was the only living speaker from the March on Washington who was present on the stage during the inauguration of Barack Obama. Obama signed a commemorative photograph for Lewis with the words, "Because of you, John. Barack Obama."[72]

In 2006, he received the US Senator John Heinz Award for Greatest Public Service by an Elected or Appointed Official, an award given out annually by Jefferson Awards.[70] In September 2007, Lewis was awarded the Dole Leadership Prize from the Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics at the University of Kansas.[71]

In 2001, the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation awarded Lewis the Profile in Courage Award "for his extraordinary courage, leadership and commitment to civil rights."[68] It is a lifetime achievement award and has only been given out twice, John Lewis and William Winter (in 2008).The next year he was awarded the Spingarn Medal from the NAACP.[69]

Lewis is honored with the 1997 sculpture by Thornton Dial, The Bridge, at Ponce de Leon Avenue and Freedom Park, Atlanta. Two years later, in 1999, Lewis was awarded the Wallenberg Medal from the University of Michigan in recognition of his courageous lifelong commitment to the defense of civil and human rights. In that same year he received the Four Freedoms Award for the Freedom of Speech.[67]

Lewis receives honorary degree from Brown University in 2012
John Lewis addressing audience in the Great Hall of the Library of Congress on the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, August 28, 2013


[66] fraternity.Phi Beta SigmaLewis is a member of

Lewis met Lillian Miles at a New Year's Eve party hosted by Xernona Clayton. They married in 1968. Together, they had one son, named John-Miles. Lillian died on December 31, 2012.[65]

Personal life

In 2013, Lewis became the first member of Congress to write a graphic novel, March: Book One, the first in a planned autobiographical trilogy co-written with Andrew Aydin and drawn by Nate Powell.[63] In an August 2014 interview, Lewis cited the influence of a 1958 comic book, Martin Luther King and the Montgomery Boycott, on his decision to adapt his experience to the graphic novel format.[64]

Lewis's autobiography, Walking with the Wind: A Memoir of the Movement was published in 1999. His life is also the subject of a 2002 book for young people, John Lewis: From Freedom Rider to Congressman.

Lewis signing copies of March Book One, the first volume of his graphic novel autobiography, at Midtown Comics in Manhattan.


Since 1991, Lewis has been senior chief deputy whip in the Democratic caucus. A December 2009 report on privately financed Congressional travel by The New York Times found Lewis to be recipient of the most trips since 2007, with a total of 40.[62]

Caucus membership

Committee assignments

[61] In the 1990s, his lowest winning percentage was 69% in 1994. In 2010, he won re-election with 74% of the vote.[60]. (Young was the first.) In 1988, he won re-election with 78% of the vote.ReconstructionA special election was called in 1977 after President

Election statistics

"If you ask me whether the election ... is the fulfillment of Dr. King's dream, I say, 'No, it's just a down payment.' There's still too many people 50 years later, there's still too many people that are being left out and left behind."
[59]In an interview for the Grio, on the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, Lewis told a reporter, "We have not yet created a truly multiracial democratic society in America. It's not post-racial." On an African American being elected president he said:

Reflections on the Obama presidency and race relations

In October 2011, a meeting of Occupy Atlanta participants did not reach consensus to allow Lewis to address the crowd. A video clip of protestors discussing the situation, and Lewis leaving without speaking, is published online.[57][58] Lewis said that he was not perturbed by the incident, and noted that "These are different times."[58]

Occupy Atlanta meeting

[56] Lewis later issued a follow-up statement clarifying that he had not compared McCain and Palin to Wallace himself, but rather that his earlier statement was a "reminder to all Americans that toxic language can lead to destructive behavior."[55] In October 2008, Lewis issued a statement criticizing the campaign of


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