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LEWIS, John R.

LEWIS, John R.
Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives
1940–2020

Biography

The son of Alabama sharecroppers, Representative John Lewis of Georgia dedicated his life to advancing the cause of freedom and equality in America. As a leader in the civil rights movement of the 1960s, Lewis challenged Jim Crow segregation and oppression across the South through nonviolent protest. Lewis often put his own physical safety on the line and his bold, peaceful stands against discrimination were often met with violence. In 1965 Alabama state troopers in the town of Selma attacked Lewis and other demonstrators with clubs and tear gas during a march for voting rights. Images of the assault were broadcast around the country and directly contributed to the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Two decades later, in 1986, Lewis was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives from an Atlanta district, part of a new generation of Black lawmakers from the South made possible by Lewis’s tireless work to expand access to the ballot. During his more than three decades in Congress, Lewis was a formidable legislator who exerted moral and political leadership within the Democratic Party and who never forgot his activist roots.

John Robert Lewis was born on February 21, 1940, in Troy, Alabama, one of ten children of Eddie and Willie Mae Lewis. To escape the exploitative system of sharecropping prevalent across the South, his parents saved enough money to purchase a 110-acre farm to grow cotton, corn, and peanuts.1 To help make ends meet, Lewis’s father also drove a school bus and his mother was a domestic worker.2 John Lewis attended segregated public schools in Alabama, and as a boy he felt called to ministry, aspiring to emulate the career of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. after hearing him speak on the radio.3 In 1957 Lewis moved to Nashville, Tennessee, to attend the American Baptist Theological Seminary, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in 1961.4 Lewis then enrolled at Fisk University, also in Nashville, and in 1967 earned a degree in religion and philosophy. In 1968 Lewis married Lillian Miles and they had one son, John-Miles Lewis.5

Before his twenty-first birthday, Lewis had taken on a central role in the American civil rights movement. He embraced King’s philosophy of nonviolent resistance and as a college student participated in sit-in protests to desegregate lunch counters in Nashville in the spring of 1960.6 Lewis was a founder and chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), a national civil rights organization with chapters at colleges throughout the South. In 1961 he endured brutal physical beatings and a lengthy arrest as one of 13 participants in the first Freedom Rides, organized by the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) to desegregate interstate commercial busing in the South. Lewis’s fearless commitment to peaceful protest resulted in more than 40 arrests between 1960 and 1966.7

In 1963 Lewis helped plan the iconic March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom that August. In the buildup to the event, Lewis, King, labor leader A. Philip Randolph, activist Bayard Rustin, and other march organizers were accused by powerful segregationists like Senator Strom Thurmond of South Carolina of having ties to the Communist Party.8 On August 28, Lewis delivered a keynote address at the Lincoln Memorial in which he called on an army of movement activists to “march through the South” in a sustained campaign of nonviolent resistance to produce effective federal civil rights legislation and destroy Jim Crow.9

In 1964, as part of SNCC’s Freedom Summer campaign in Mississippi, Lewis braved constant threats and violence to lead a voter registration drive and plan peaceful protests against segregation. He worked with SNCC staff to train an interracial group of activists to set up schools and register people to vote.10 After months of demanding organizing, Lewis was part of a group of civil rights activists invited by the Guinean government to travel to the West African nation and share their experiences with young people in September 1964. Lewis extended his trip to several African nations, including Liberia, Ghana, Zambia, and Ethiopia. During a brief stop in Nairobi, Kenya, he had a chance meeting with Malcolm X, who was also traveling at the time, during which they discussed the global Black freedom struggle and their goals for the movement in the United States11

When Lewis returned to America, he embarked on a new voter registration drive in Selma, Alabama.12 SNCC worked with King and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) to coordinate picket lines and protests in early 1965. On Sunday, March 7, Lewis and hundreds of others began a march to the state capital in Montgomery to raise awareness of voter suppression. As the group crossed the Edmund Pettis Bridge over the Alabama River, baton-wielding state troopers descended on the group, beating and tear-gassing the peaceful marchers. Photos of local law enforcement attacking Lewis with a club circulated throughout the nation. Lewis, who suffered a fractured skull on what became known as “Bloody Sunday,” called for the federal government to protect protestors. “I don’t see how President Johnson can send troops to Vietnam . . . I don’t see how he can send troops to Africa and can’t send troops to Selma,” he said before receiving treatment for his injury.13

The appalling brutality against peaceful demonstrators in Selma served as the catalyst for congressional action on voting rights. While some Members, including James D. Martin of Alabama, accused Lewis of instigating the violence, momentum for new voting rights legislation gathered speed. Only six months later, in early August, Lewis attended a ceremony at the White House to watch as President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965.14 The new law banned discrimination at the polls and sanctioned federal oversight of the nation’s elections. It also included a “preclearance” requirement in which counties with a history of discrimination required Department of Justice approval before making any changes to their voting laws.15

Lewis left SNCC in 1966 and finished his degree at Fisk before taking a job in New York City as associate director of the Field Foundation, which worked to combat poverty and inequality.16 In 1967 he moved to Atlanta, where he was hired as the director of the Community Organization Project for the Southern Regional Council, an interracial advocacy group.17 Shortly into his tenure there, he took a brief leave to work on the presidential campaign of Senator Robert F. Kennedy of New York. Lewis was with Kennedy in Los Angeles when the Senator was assassinated in June 1968.18

In 1970 Lewis became executive director of the Voter Education Project, a nonpartisan organization working to register voters across the South. On March 3, 1975, he testified in front of a House Judiciary Committee subcommittee on the need to reauthorize the Voting Rights Act.19 Lewis recommended that Congress renew and strengthen the act. “Those who hold illegitimate power will not give it up voluntarily,” Lewis warned.20 He called on Congress to pass a “permanent, national act” to “guarantee minority voting rights protection” across the nation.21

Lewis first ran for Congress in a 1977 special election to replace Georgia Representative Andrew Young who had resigned to serve as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. In the crowded Democratic primary for the seat representing Atlanta’s Fifth District, Lewis ran on a platform calling for strong federal anti-poverty programs.22 On Election Day, Lewis won 29 percent of the vote—second in a field of 12, behind Atlanta city council president Wyche Fowler Jr. Because Fowler failed to secure a majority, he faced Lewis in a runoff. On the day of the election, Walter Fauntroy, the District of Columbia’s Delegate in Congress, visited Atlanta and told crowds that the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) needed Lewis on Capitol Hill.23 Fowler ultimately prevailed with 62 percent of the vote.24

One month later, President Jimmy Carter appointed Lewis associate director of the federal volunteer agency, ACTION, where he worked to build connections to local volunteer groups and diversify the agency’s workforce.25 He resigned in January 1980, citing his desire to return to Atlanta and pursue a career in politics.26 He later tied his decision to leave Washington to a contentious hearing in front of the House Appropriations Committee in which several Members tried to limit funding for ACTION programs. Lewis became determined to seek elected office “where I would have more control over the things I thought ought to be done, where I wouldn’t have to go up to Capitol Hill and answer to some committee chair who was simply using this agency or that to score political points. I wanted to get on the other side of that table.”27 In October 1980 he was named director of community affairs at the National Consumer Cooperative Bank, a financial institution chartered by Congress to provide funding for consumer cooperatives.28

In 1981 Lewis defeated a 24-year veteran of city politics to claim a seat on the Atlanta city council. In his first elected office, Lewis grappled with local issues including public funding for infrastructure, zoning laws, and homelessness.29 He touted his independence and urged the council to adopt ethics reforms, including financial disclosure requirements.30 He was also one of the leading opponents of a four-lane highway designed to serve the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum. Lewis criticized the plan for harming local neighborhoods, cutting through a city park, and increasing traffic and pollution.31 Ultimately, the council approved the road, but it was reduced to two lanes. In 2018 it was renamed the John Lewis Freedom Parkway.32

In 1986 Representative Fowler announced his intention to run for the U.S. Senate. With Georgia’s Fifth District seat open for the first time in nearly a decade, Lewis resigned from the city council to join seven other candidates in the Democratic primary. The Fifth District had been redrawn following reapportionment in 1982. The new seat covered most of Atlanta and rural areas in southwest Fulton County, and the district’s Black population increased from about half to nearly two-thirds of all registered voters. Lewis initially finished second to his former SNCC colleague and then-Georgia state senator Julian Bond, with 35 percent of the vote. But Bond’s share of the vote fell just short of 50 percent, triggering a runoff for September 2. Lewis assumed the role of outsider, campaigning door to door across the district. He criticized Bond for absenteeism in the state senate and for not effectively serving his constituents during his 20-year career in state politics. Lewis promised to advocate for all people and business in his district. “I’m not on the black slate,” he declared, “I’m on the people’s slate.”33

As the primary runoff neared, Lewis worked to chip away at Bond’s lead. In a televised debate, Lewis suggested both candidates submit to a drug test for public review—echoing a similar request by President Ronald Reagan of his administration’s staff weeks earlier. Bond declined and accused Lewis of “demagoguery,” but the ploy became a focal point during the campaign’s final days. Lewis ultimately prevailed in a narrow victory, earning 52 percent of the vote. Polling suggested he won a larger share of Black voters than in the initial primary while also attracting nearly 80 percent of white voters.34 In the general election, Lewis easily defeated Republican candidate Portia A. Scott with 75 percent of the vote. In his subsequent 16 re-elections, Lewis won by similar margins, running unopposed in all but three cycles since 2002.35

When Lewis entered the House in January 1987, he was assigned to two committees: Public Works and Transportation; and Interior and Insular Affairs. In the 101st Congress (1989–1991), he received an additional post on the House Select Committee on Aging. Lewis also served on the Budget Committee for the 108th Congress (2003–2005) and the Joint Committee on Taxation during the 116th Congress (2019–2021). In addition to his committee responsibilities, Lewis was part of the Democratic whip operation for 30 years. He was named a chief deputy whip in 1989 before being appointed senior chief deputy whip in the 110th Congress (2007–2009). As a chief deputy whip, Lewis held a seat on the influential Democratic Steering and Policy Committee, which helps set the party’s agenda and oversees committee assignments.36 He was also a member of the Congressional Black Caucus. Lewis relinquished his other committee assignments after winning a coveted seat on the powerful Ways and Means Committee in the 103rd Congress (1993–1995). He remained on the tax-writing panel for the rest of his career.

From the start, Lewis had a far-ranging legislative agenda. He backed or introduced a wide array of proposals early in his House tenure, including legislation advancing civil rights as well as environmental justice, education, and health care.37 He often described his work on Capitol Hill as being in pursuit of King’s ideal notion of the “beloved community”—one committed to equality and founded on peace and justice for all.38

Lewis’s celebrated record of activism gave him a prominent place on Capitol Hill from the very beginning of his House career.39 Reporters sought his perspective on every important bill, controversy, or Democratic maneuver in Congress. His public comments carried significant weight within the Democratic Caucus and often garnered praise from Republicans. For many on Capitol Hill, Lewis was the “conscience of Congress.”40

Lewis also attended to the needs of his district. He took the lead in securing federal funds for urban development and highlighted troubling inequities in a city experiencing dynamic change. When a major department store vacated its downtown Atlanta building in 1991, Lewis joined his Georgia colleagues in calling for the federal government to transform the space into offices for the thousands of federal workers in the city. Lewis used his seat on the Public Works Committee to secure funding for what became the Atlanta Federal Center.41 He argued that consolidating the federal workforce in the city center would encourage people to take mass transit and lower pollution.42 Lewis was known as a thoughtful lawmaker who often carefully evaluated the local effect of urban development, calling for federal funds for infrastructure improvements to the city in preparation for the Olympics Games that summer.43 He was also a prominent opponent of highway projects that he said would disrupt residential neighborhoods and compromise air quality in the city.44

In addition to his work on local issues, Lewis used his seat in the House as a platform to bring his commitment to human rights to U.S. foreign policy. In 1988 he was arrested during an anti-apartheid protest at the South African Embassy in Washington.45 Lewis’s renowned commitment to the philosophy of nonviolence complicated his position on U.S. military actions abroad. In 1991 he was a vocal opponent of American intervention in the Gulf War, calling war “obsolete as a tool and as a means to conduct foreign policy.”46 In the aftermath of September 11, 2001, however, Lewis declared his intention to “send the strongest possible message that we can’t let terrorism stand,” and joined the overwhelming majority of House Members who voted to authorize the use of military force.47 One year later, he cited the destructive nature of war to adamantly oppose the Bush administration’s planned invasion of Iraq.48

At certain points in his career, Lewis broke with his party to oppose major international trade initiatives. Lewis joined Majority Whip David Bonior of Michigan in opposing the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), proposed by Democratic President William J. Clinton in 1993. Lewis warned the agreement threatened jobs in the United States over the long-term.49 Despite his opposition, NAFTA went into effect in 1994. He also criticized the move to normalize trade relations with China in 2000, criticizing the human rights record of the Chinese government.50

When the Republican Party won control of the House in the 104th Congress (1995–1997), Lewis helped lead the Democratic opposition to the agenda of Speaker Newt Gingrich of Georgia. Lewis worked to stop Republicans from cutting welfare programs and other government spending. In 1995 he joined protestors to disrupt a speech given by Gingrich to a private organization in support of reductions to Medicare.51 He was one of the most prominent voices criticizing Gingrich for profiting from a lucrative book deal and tried to force the House Ethics Committee to release a preliminary report on Gingrich’s alleged wrongdoing.52 In 1997 House Republicans revoked Lewis’s speaking privileges for a day when, during a speech on the House Floor, he accused Gingrich of lying to the Ethics Committee.53

Lewis briefly considered mounting a challenge to Georgia Republican Senator Paul Coverdell in 1997. “I do not want to give the Republican incumbent a free ride,” Lewis said.54 He ultimately decided to hold on to his House seat, and during the remainder of the 105th Congress (1997–1999), Lewis was a prominent voice against the impeachment of President Clinton.55

Throughout his time on Capitol Hill, Lewis searched for ways to use the power of the federal government to ensure equal protection of the law. In 2004 he introduced the FAIRNESS Act to clarify the processes the government used to determine if discrimination occurred in the workplace.56 When the Voting Rights Act was set to expire in 2007, Lewis was at the forefront of the Democratic effort to reauthorize the legislation and opposed amendments that he said made it harder to register to vote.57 Lewis was clear that the gains in voting rights of the previous four decades were not irreversible. “We cannot separate the debate today from our history and the past we have traveled.”58 The law, he said, was as necessary in 2006 as it was in 1965.59

In 2013, when the Supreme Court struck down the formula used by the Justice Department to determine which jurisdictions were subject to the preclearance provision, Lewis denounced the decision. The Court, he said, “had stuck a dagger in the heart of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. They’re saying, in effect, that history cannot repeat itself. But I say, come and walk in my shoes.”60

As Lewis worked to protect the gains of the civil rights movement, he also worked to preserve and celebrate this history. In his first term, he passed a bill naming a federal building in Atlanta after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.; throughout his career, he proposed several bills to bestow similar honors on judges, lawyers, and activists who helped shape the civil rights movement.61 He also led an annual “pilgrimage” to Selma to trace his steps across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in 1965. Lewis urged congressional colleagues from both sides of the aisle to join him in Alabama.62

Starting in 1991, Lewis proposed legislation to establish a national museum of African American history.63 He worked tirelessly to gather support for the measure, and his bill creating the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC, was finally signed into law by President George W. Bush in 2003.64 The museum opened on the National Mall in 2016.

Lewis also took bold stands on contested issues such as gay rights. He opposed both the Defense Department’s 1993 “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that banned openly gay service members in the U.S. military, and the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act.65 In support of his convictions he often participated in protests and risked arrest. In 2016 Lewis led a sit-in on the House Floor to protest the lack of gun control legislation following a mass shooting at a nightclub in Orlando, Florida.66

Lewis remained an activist during his career on Capitol Hill, and called on popular movements to do what he had done in the 1960s: pressure Congress to act. “Without social movement, without people speaking out, making their voices heard, without moving their feet, sometimes Congress is reluctant to move or to act,” Lewis said. “Now one thing about elected officials, and I think the Voting Rights Act proved that, they can count, they’re good on counting. They can change their minds, their attitudes. They can get religion pretty quick.”67

When the Democratic Party won the House majority for the 110th Congress, Lewis seized the opportunity to pass legislation. After a long period in the minority, Lewis became chair of the Ways and Means Subcommittee on Oversight in the 110th and 111th Congresses (2007–2011). He held hearings to expose fraud in the Medicare program, investigated government tax credits for development projects in New Orleans following the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina, and searched for ways to improve the tax code to strengthen nonprofit advocacy organizations. In the wake of the mortgage crisis and banking failures, Lewis led subcommittee hearings to investigate the use of federal money in the Troubled Asset Relief Program and sought ways to improve the services provided by the IRS to taxpayers.68 In the 110th Congress, Lewis sponsored the Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crime Act, which provided $20 million over ten years to re-visit investigations into crimes against civil rights workers that occurred prior to January 1, 1970. The bill became law in 2008.69

After losing the House majority in 2010 and spending eight years in the minority, House Democrats reclaimed power following the 2018 midterm elections. In the 116th Congress (2019–2021), Lewis again took the gavel of the Ways and Means Subcommittee on Oversight. Lewis worked with several Republican colleagues to build support for his Taxpayer First Act which reformed the internal workings of the IRS and improved taxpayer services. The bill became law in 2019.70 In December 2019 he supported the impeachment of President Donald J. Trump.71

In 2019 Lewis passed William Lacy Clay Sr. of Missouri to become the third-longest-serving Black Member of Congress. He remained committed to speaking truth to power and calling on the nation to live up to its inspired ideals. In the summer of 2020, Lewis voiced support for the protests occurring around the world against police brutality and racism following the murder of George Floyd, a Black man, while in police custody in Minnesota; Lewis visited Black Lives Matter Plaza in Washington, DC, in early June.72

On July 17, 2020, John Lewis died in Atlanta of pancreatic cancer.73 A procession was organized to walk his remains across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma one final time before his casket laid in honor in two state capitals: Montgomery, Alabama, and Atlanta, Georgia. Ten days later, Lewis became the first Black lawmaker to lie in state in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda.74

In 1995, almost a decade into his House career, Lewis offered a personal reflection on the convictions that guided his actions and defined his life. “What am I? I am a man who deeply believes in compassion and hope,” Lewis wrote. “A man who believes we can move beyond the anger, hatred and attacks that have assaulted our nation’s psyche. A man who, day after day, struggles to build the bridges that will allow us all to come together in Dr. King’s beloved community.”75

Footnotes

1John Lewis, Walking with the Wind: A Memoir of the Movement (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1998): 11.

2Lewis, Walking with the Wind: 46, 78; “John (Robert) Lewis,” Current Biography, 1980 (New York: H.W. Wilson and Company, 1980): 222.

3Lewis, Walking with the Wind: 59.

4Lewis, Walking with the Wind: 69.

5“Lillian Miles To Be Wed to John Lewis,” 8 December 1968, New York Times: 102; Katharine Q. Seelye, “John Lewis, Civil Rights Icon and Congressman, Dies at 80,” 19 July 2020, New York Times: A1.

6“Oral History Interview with John Lewis, November 20, 1973,” Interview A-0073, Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The interview transcript is available online at https://docsouth.unc.edu/sohp/A-0073/A-0073.html.

7Laura Parker, “John Lewis: Scarred Survivor Brings Home Lessons of ’60s,” 6 March 1990, Washington Post: A3.

8Congressional Record, Senate, 88th Cong., 1st sess. (2 August 1963): 13969.

9Lewis, Walking with the Wind: 224.

10Michael Lydon, “Students Train for Rights Push,” 19 June 1964, Boston Globe: 13; Lewis, Walking with the Wind: 246–251.

11Lewis, Walking with the Wind: 284–288.

12Lewis, Walking with the Wind: 303–304.

13Roy Reed, “Alabama Police Use Gas and Clubs to Rout Negroes,” 8 March 1965, New York Times: 1; Roy Reed, “1,500 Turned Back,” 10 March 1965, New York Times: 1.

14“The Honorable John R. Lewis Oral History Interview,” Office of the Historian, U.S. House of Representatives (11 December 2014): 22–25. The interview transcript is available online at https://history.house.gov/Oral-History/People/Representative-Lewis/.

15Voting Rights Act, Public Law 89-110, 79 Stat. 437 (1965).

16“John Lewis Leaving SNCC and Returning to School,” 9 July 1966, New Journal and Guide (Hampton Roads, VA): 25; Lewis, Walking with the Wind: 374–380; “Civil Rights Group Names Lewis, Via To Key Positions,” 8 February 1970, Evening Star: 8; Jeff Nesmith, “Native Son Returns to be Honored by Alabama,” 4 November 1977, Atlanta Constitution: 18A.

17“Civil Rights Group Names Lewis, Via To Key Positions,” 8 February 1970, Evening Star: 8; “Interracial Body in South is Aided,” 17 October 1955, New York Times: 21.

18Lewis, Walking with the Wind: 394–395; “Kennedy Hires Ex-SNCC Chairman John Lewis to Campaign for Him,” 20 April 1968, Philadelphia Tribune: 15.

19Hearings before the House Committee on the Judiciary, Subcommittee on Civil and Constitutional Rights, Extension of the Voting Rights Act, 94th Cong., 1st sess. (1975): 127–137.

20Extension of the Voting Rights Act: 130.

21Extension of the Voting Rights Act: 131.

22Yvonee Shinhoster, “John Lewis Blasts ‘Red Tape’ Involved in Food Stamp Program,” 8 February 1977, Atlanta Daily World: 1.

23Yvonne Shinhoster, “Leaders Call Today’s Election ‘Historic’; Urge Huge Lewis Vote,” 5 April 1977, Atlanta Daily World: 1.

24“Fowler Defeats Lewis for Young’s House Seat,” 6 April 1977, Washington Post: A6.

25Jim Merriner, “Lewis Named ACTION Deputy,” 12 May 1977, Atlanta Constitution: 12A; George Rodrigue, “Freedom Rider Joins Runners,” 9 July 1981, Atlanta Constitution: 1C.

26“ACTION’s Associate Director Leaves for Role in Politics,” 18 January 1980, New Journal and Guide (Hampton Roads, VA): 11.

27Lewis, Walking with the Wind: 428; Hearings before the House Committee on Appropriations, Subcommittee on the Departments of Labor and Health, Education, and Welfare, Supplemental Appropriation Bill, 1979, 96th Cong., 1st sess. (1979): 623–685.

28“John Lewis Joins Cooperative Bank,” 4 October 1980, The Afro-American (Baltimore): 3; George Rodrigue, “Freedom Rider Joins Runners,” 9 July 1981, Atlanta Constitution: 1C; Lucia Mouat, “Consumer Groups Happy with New White House,” 13 January 1977, Christian Science Monitor: 1; “National Consumer Cooperative Bank Act,” Public Law 95-351, 92 Stat. 499 (1978).

29Katheryn Hayes, “Atlanta Council Approves Zone Policy Change,” 18 October 1983, Atlanta Constitution: 7A; James Alexander Jr., “Homeless Top Issue, Lewis Says,” 5 February 1984, Atlanta Constitution: 4C; Russ Rymer, “Butting Heads with the Status Quo,” 7 November 1982, Atlanta Constitution: 14.

30Gayle White, “City Council to Discuss Ethics Reforms,” 17 August 1984, Atlanta Constitution: 20A; “Lewis Wages Lonely Ethics Battle,” 12 November 1984, Atlanta Constitution: 12A.

31Russ Rymer, “Butting Heads with the Status Quo,” 7 November 1982, Atlanta Constitution: 14.

32Ernie Suggs, “Years in Atlanta Tested Lewis’ Mettle,” 17 July 2020, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, https://www.ajc.com/news/years-in-atlanta-city-hall-tested-lewis-mettle/ETDBOVA6R5GFDJVXETK7LYP3QU/.

33Bill Peterson, “Bond Defeated By Ex-Ally in Georgia Vote,” 3 September 1966, Washington Post: A1.

34Joe Davidson, “Lacking Issues, Veteran Civil-Rights Allies Take to the Low Road in Georgia Race for Congress,” 8 August 1986, Wall Street Journal: 36; Art Harris, “Georgia Rivals in Bitter Runoff,” 31 August 1986, Washington Post: A4; Politics in America, 1988 (Washington, DC: Congressional Quarterly Inc., 1987): 366–367; Almanac of American Politics, 1988 (Washington, DC: National Journal Inc., 1987): 298–299.

35Office of the Clerk, U.S. House of Representatives, “Election Statistics, 1920 to Present,” http://history.house.gov/Institution/Election-Statistics/Election-Statistics/.

36Peter Applebome, “Frictions Haunt Rights Hero of Past,” 6 July 1991, New York Times: 8; Jennifer Yachnin and Ben Pershing, “Hensarling to Head RSC; Kilpatrick Chairs CBC,” 7 December 2006, Roll Call: 1.

37To amend the Act of August 30, 1890 (commonly known as the Second Morrill Act), to remove language purporting to permit racial segregation in land-grant colleges that receive funds under that Act, H.R. 4898, 101st Cong. (1990); Environmental Justice Act, H.R. 5326, 102nd Cong. (1992); Medicare Respite Care Coverage Act, H.R. 6023, 102nd Cong. (1992).

38Robert Scheer, “Interview: John Lewis On Fighting Without Bitterness for an Interracial Democracy,” 26 July 1988, Los Angeles Times: 3; Rep. John Lewis, “Martin Luther King’s Legacy: South a Land of Opportunity,” 17 January 1988, Orlando Sentinel: G3.

39Laura Parker, “John Lewis: Scarred Survivor Brings Home Lessons of ’60s,” 6 March 1990, Washington Post: A3

40Katharine Q. Seelye, “John Lewis, Civil Rights Icon and Congressman, Dies at 80,” 19 July 2020, New York Times: A1.

41Sallye Salter, “The Shape and Shadow of Atlanta Federal Center,” 20 October 1996, Atlanta Constitution: H1.

42Hearing before the House Committee on Public Works and Transportation, Subcommittee on Buildings and Grounds, H.R. 5831 (Designating the Martin Luther King, Jr., Federal Building, Victoria, TX), H.R. 5822 (Designating the Richard Chambers United States Court of Appeals Building, Pasadena, CA), H.R. 1246 (National African-American Museum), Building Project Survey Report for Atlanta, GA (Rich’s Department Store), 102nd Cong., 2nd sess. (1992): 88.

43Judy Bailey, “Atlanta Needs Federal Aid for Olympics, Lewis Says,” 10 September 1992, Atlanta Constitution: XK1; Athelia Knight, “Atlanta Chases Olympic Gold in Image,” 28 August 1995, Washington Post: A1.

44“What is on the Minds of US Voters? In Atlanta, Balancing Concerns of Rich, Poor,” 10 July 1990, Christian Science Monitor: 7; David Goldberg, “Debate over Ga. 400 Project Shifts to Washington,” 9 January 1998, Atlanta Constitution: C2.

45Zita Arocha, “900 March Against New Repression in South Africa,” 3 March 1988, Washington Post: B3.

46Congressional Record, House, 102nd Cong., 1st sess. (11 January 1991): 612.

47Peter Carlson, “The Solitary Vote of Barbara Lee,” 19 September 2001, Washington Post: C1.

48Melanie Eversley, “Georgians in House Divided on Iraq,” 10 October 2002, Atlanta Journal-Constitution: A1.

49Hearing before the House Committee on Ways and Means, Subcommittee on Trade, North American Free-Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and Supplemental Agreements to the NAFTA, 103rd Cong., 1st sess. (1993): 80–81; Keith Bradsher, “Democratic Whip in House to Fight Free-Trade Pact,” 28 August 1993, New York Times: 1.

50Matthew Vita and Juliet Eilperin, “House Passes China Trade Bill,” 25 May 2000, Washington Post: A1.

51John Lewis, “Why I Said What I Did,” 5 May 1995, Washington Post: A25; Adam Clymer, “As Demonstrators Gather, Gingrich Delays a Speech,” 8 August 1995, New York Times: B6.

52Adam Clymer, “House Rejects Bid to Force Release of Ethics Report on Gingrich,” 20 September 1996, New York Times: A26; H. Res. 526, 104th Cong. (1996); H. Res. 532, 104th Cong. (1996).

53Mark Sherman and Jeanne Cummings, “In a Rare Move, House Silences Lewis’ Attack on Gingrich,” 18 April 1997, Atlanta Journal: A14.

54Mark Sherman, “Lewis May Challenge Coverdell in Next Year’s Senate Contest,” 10 July 1997, Atlanta Constitution: A, 3:4.

55Kathey Alexander, “Lewis Will Not Seek Seat in Senate,” 6 August 1997, Atlanta Constitution: B, 4:1; Rebecca Carr and Ken Foskett, “The Impeachment Debate: Georgians in House Split on Party Lines,” 19 December 1998, Atlanta Constitution: A6.

56Fairness and Individual Rights Necessary to Ensure a Stronger Society (FAIRNESS) Act, H.R. 3809, 108th Cong. (2004).

57Congressional Record, House, 109th Cong., 2nd sess. (28 June 2006): 12974.

58Congressional Record, House, 109th Cong., 2nd sess. (13 July 2006): 14252.

59Congressional Record, House, 109th Cong., 2nd sess. (13 July 2006): 14252.

60David G. Savage, “Supreme Court Rulings: Justices Rein in Voting Rights Act,” 26 June 2013, Los Angeles Times: A1.

61A bill to designate the Federal building located at 50 Spring Street, Southwest, Atlanta, Georgia, as the “Martin Luther King, Jr. Federal Building,” Public Law 100-384, 102 Stat. 917 (1988).

62“Lewis Oral History Interview,” Office of the Historian: 6–15.

63Ernie Suggs, “Lewis Pushes for Museum: Georgia Congressman Sets Meeting on How to Preserve Black Legacy,” 15 February 2003, Atlanta Journal-Constitution: E2.

64National Museum of African American History and Culture Act, Public Law 108–184, 117 Stat. 2676 (2003).

65Michael Ross, “House Backs Modified Ban on Gays in Armed Forces,” 29 September 1993, Los Angeles Times: A11; Elizabeth Schwinn, “House Oks Ban on Gay Marriage,” 12 July 1996, San Francisco Examiner: A1; National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 1994, Public Law 103-160, 107 Stat. 1547 (1993); Defense of Marriage Act, Public Law 104-199, 110 Stat. 2419 (1996).

66Richard Fausset, “House Gun Sit-In Evokes A Civil Rights-Era Scene,” 26 June 2016, New York Times: 14.

67“Lewis Oral History Interview,” Office of the Historian: 23.

68Hearings before the House Committee on Ways and Means, Subcommittee on Oversight, Katrina Redevelopment Tax Issues, 110th Cong., 1st sess. (2007); Joint Hearings before the House Committee on Ways and Means, Subcommittees on Health and Oversight, Medicare Program Integrity, 110th Cong., 1st sess. (2007); Hearings before the House Committee on Ways and Means, Subcommittee on Oversight, Tax-Exempt Charitable Organizations, 110th Cong., 1st sess. (2007); Hearings before the House Committee on Ways and Means, Subcommittee on Oversight, Troubled Asset Relief Program, 111th Cong., 1st sess. (2009); Hearings before the House Committee on Ways and Means, Subcommittee on Oversight, The National Taxpayer Advocate’s 2009 Report on the Most Serious Problems Encountered by Taxpayers, 111th Cong., 2nd sess. (2010).

69Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crime Act, Public Law 110-344, 122 Stat. 3934 (2008).

70Congressional Record, Daily, House, 115th Cong., 2nd sess. (20 December 2018): H10414; Hearings before the House Committee on Ways and Means, Subcommittee on Oversight, National Taxpayer Advocate on the IRS Filing Season, 116th Cong., 1st sess. (2019); Taxpayer First Act, Public Law 116-25, 133 Stat. 981 (2019).

71Congressional Record, Daily, House, 116th Cong., 1st sess. (18 December 2019): H12167.

72John Lewis, “Together, You Can Redeem the Soul of Our Nation,” 30 July 2020, New York Times: A23.

73Katharine Q. Seelye, “John Lewis, Civil Rights Icon and Congressman, Dies at 80,” 19 July 2020, New York Times: A1.

74Eric Velasco, “John Lewis Makes Final Crossing of Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala.,” 27 July 2020, Washington Post: A7; Charles Safiya, “Montgomery Mourners Celebrate Life of Lewis,” 28 July 2020, Montgomery Advertiser: A2; Rick Rojas and Richard Fausset, “Atlanta Remembers John Lewis and His Legacy,” 30 July 2020, New York Times: A18; Bill Barrow and Andrew Taylor, “John Lewis First Black Lawmaker to Lie in State in Capitol Rotunda,” 28 July 2020, Philadelphia Tribune: 1A.

75John Lewis, “Why I Said What I Did,” 5 May 1995, Washington Post: A25.

View Record in the Biographical Directory of the U.S. Congress

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External Research Collections

Academy of Achievement

Washington, DC
Oral History: 2004, 7 pages. A transcript of the interview with John R. Lewis conducted on June 10, 2004, as well as selected audio and video clips from the interview are available on the Academy of Achievement's website: http://www.achievement.org/autodoc/page/lew0int-2.

Georgia State University
Special Collection Department, William Russell Pullen Library

Atlanta, GA
Oral History: In the Grace Towns Hamilton Interview, 1977, 1 audiotape. Subjects include John Lewis.

The HistoryMakers

Chicago, IL
Oral History: 2001, amount unknown. An oral history interview of John Lewis conducted on April 25, 2001.

Howard University
Moorland-Spingarn Research Center

Washington, DC
Oral History: 1967, 175 pages. The interview with John R. Lewis, third chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), includes recollections of student sit-ins in Nashville, Tennessee in the early 1960s. John R. Lewis also discusses the founding of SNCC and its activities, including Freedom Rides and demonstration in Selma, Alabama. Recalls his role in the March on Washington and his association with Martin Luther King Jr. Restrictions: The record of this tape may be read in the repository. No quotation or citation during the lifetime of the oral author without his written permission.
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Bibliography / Further Reading

Bausum, Ann. Freedom Riders: John Lewis and Jim Zwerg on the Front Lines of the Civil Rights Movement. Washington: National Geographic, 2006.

Halberstam, David. The Children. New York: Random House, 1998.

Haskins, James, and Kathleen Benson. John Lewis in the Lead: A Story of the Civil Rights Movement. New York: Lee & Low Books, Inc., 2006.

Hill, Christine M. John Lewis: From Freedom Rider to Congressman. Berkeley Heights, N.J.: Enslow Publishers, 2002.

"John Lewis" in Black Americans in Congress, 1870-2007. Prepared under the direction of the Committee on House Administration by the Office of History & Preservation, U.S. House of Representatives. Washington: Government Printing Office, 2008.

Lewis, John. Across That Bridge: Life Lessons and a Vision for Change. New York: Hyperion, 2012.

Lewis, John, with Michael D'Orso. Walking with the Wind: A Memoir of the Movement. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1998. Reprint, San Diego: Harcourt Brace, 1999.

Lewis, John, and Andrew Aydin, illustrations by Nate Powell. March: Book One. Marietta, G.A.: Top Shelf Productions, 2013.

Lewis, John, and Andrew Aydin, illustrations by Nate Powell. March: Book Two. Marietta, G.A.: Top Shelf Productions, 2015.

Lewis, John, and Andrew Aydin, illustrations by Nate Powell. March: Book Three. Marietta, G.A.: Top Shelf Productions, 2016.

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Committee Assignments

  • House Committee - Budget
  • House Committee - District of Columbia
  • House Committee - Interior and Insular Affairs
  • House Committee - Public Works and Transportation
  • House Committee - Select Aging
  • House Committee - Ways and Means
    • Oversight - Chair
  • Joint Committee - Joint Committee on Taxation
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