Make your own free website on
Rep. John Lewis
Described as "one of the most courageous persons the Civil Rights Movement ever produced,"John Lewis has dedicated his life to protecting human rights, securing personal dignity and building what he calls "The Beloved Community." He has displayed a sense of ethics and morality that has won him the admiration of many of his colleagues in the United States Congress. John Lewis was born the son of sharecroppers on February 21, 1940 outside of Troy, Alabama. He grew up on his family’s farm and attended segregated public schools in Pike County, Alabama. He holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Religion and Philosophy from Fisk University; and he is a graduate of the American Baptist Theological Seminary in Nashville, Tennessee. He has also been awarded numerous honorary degrees from colleges and universities throughout the United States, including Clark Atlanta University, Brandeis University, Columbia University, Fisk University, Morehouse College, Princeton University and Williams College. John Lewis is the recipient of numerous awards, including the prestigious Martin Luther King, Jr. Non-Violent Peace Prize. In December 1998, President William Jefferson Clinton presented the first Eleanor Roosevelt Award for Human Rights to John Lewis. At an early age, John Lewis developed an unwavering commitment to the Civil Rights Movement. For more than three decades, he has been in the vanguard of progressive social movements and the human rights struggles in the United States. As a student, John Lewis organized sit-in demonstrations at segregated lunch counters in Nashville, Tennessee. In 1961, John Lewis volunteered to participate in the Freedom Rides, which were organized to challenge segregation at interstate bus terminals across the South. Lewis risked his life and was beaten severely by mobs for participating in the Rides. During the height of the Civil Rights Movement, from 1963 to 1966, Lewis was the Chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), which he helped form. SNCC was largely responsible for the sit-ins and other activities of students in the struggle for civil rights. Despite his youth, John Lewis became a recognized leader in the Civil Rights Movement. By 1963, he was recognized as one of the "Big Six" leaders of the Civil Rights Movement. (The other Big Six leaders were Whitney Young, A. Philip Randolph, Martin Luther King, Jr., James Farmer and Roy Wilkins.) Lewis, at the age of 23, was one of the planners and a keynote speaker at the historic "March on Washington" in August 1963. In 1964, John Lewis coordinated SNCC efforts to organize voter registration drives and community action programs during the "Mississippi Freedom Summer." The following year, Lewis led one of the most dramatic nonviolent protests of the Movement. Along with fellow activist, Hosea Williams, John Lewis led 525 marchers across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama on March 7, 1965. Alabama state troopers attacked the marchers in a confrontation that became known as "Bloody Sunday." That fateful march and a subsequent march between Selma and Montgomery, Alabama led to the Voting Rights Act of 1965. In 1977, John Lewis was appointed by President Jimmy Carter to direct more that 250,000 volunteers of ACTION, the federal volunteer agency. In 1980, he left ACTION and became Community Affairs Director of the National Consumer Co-op Bank in Atlanta. John Lewis’s first electoral success came in 1981 when he was elected to the Atlanta City Council. He resigned from the Council in 1986 to run for Congress. Elected to Congress in November, 1986, Lewis represents Georgia’s Fifth Congressional District. The Congressional District encompasses the entire city of Atlanta, Georgia and parts of Fulton, DeKalb and Clayton counties. In 1996, John Lewis was unopposed in his bid for a sixth term. He won re-election for his seventh term in November of 1998. In the 105th Congress, Lewis is a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, where he serves on the Subcommittee on Health and on the Subcommittee on Oversight. Congressman Lewis serves as a Chief Deputy Democratic Whip. He was first appointed to this position in 1991. He also serves on the influential Democratic Steering Committee. Lewis is a co-chair of the Congressional Urban Caucus, the Congressional Caucus on Anti-Semitism and the Congressional Committee to Support Writers and Journalists. He is also a member of the Congressional Black Caucus. John Lewis, with writer Michael D'Orso, authored Walking with the Wind: A Memoir of the Movement (June, 1998). The book is a first-hand account of this nation's civil rights movement. In May 1999, John Lewis received the prestigious Robert F. Kennedy Book Award. John Lewis’ wife, Lillian, lives in Atlanta, Georgia where she is Director of External Affairs, Office of Research and Sponsored Programs at Clark Atlanta University. The Lewises have one son, John Miles Lewis.