U.S. House of Representative John Robert Lewis, D-GA, is not one to rest on his professional or personal laurels. He has been elected 17 times to his government post since 1981 and represented civil rights deeds since 1957, yet he is attempting to jump another hurdle with his health.
With the new year announcement of him battling stage four pancreatic cancer, Lewis has not come forth with a pity party. He has relied on honesty, courage, and faith to guide him through this painful journey. Many Americans have come forth to embrace Mr. Lewis and show him compassion in the wake of his startling announcement.
Lewis has been in the public eye since 1957 when he met the late Rosa Parks. Being from Alabama and a mature, quiet woman in the struggle, Lewis was attracted to her will to change life for Americans, with the Montgomery Bus Boycott. He was the third of nine children born to Alabama sharecroppers, and used the public radio to educate himself about America’s struggles with race, poverty, equity, and Jim Crow Laws. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. met him in 1958, and Lewis remained loyal to his mentor until his death in 1968. Lewis attended a Historically Black College and University, Fisk College in Nashville, TN, and also was inspired to become a minister, like Dr. King.
Following in Dr. King’s footsteps, Lewis advocated for nonviolence, even when his life was on the line. Lewis did not follow in the turbulent 1960’s youth groups like the Black Panthers or show his militant side like Malcolm X, choosing to let his peaceful stand speak for his politics. Lewis accompanied Dr. King, across the country and wrote his own book, after he became a larger public figure. Dr. King pointed to Lewis in several 1963, 1965 and 1967 photographs, as one of the men he expected to carry out peaceful ideas. Lewis was one of the Freedom Riders and represented SNCC at the 1963 March on Washington.
When the 1965 Selma movie was released, Lewis was prominently remembered for his brave sacrifices, as the national chair of the SNCC (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee), who was beaten for participating in such an event. He stood with the Urban League’s Whitney Young, NAACP President Roy Wilkins, CORE’s James Farmer, and many others in 1963, planning strategies for additional marches, rallies, church services and anything that addressed civil rights protest in the south. Lewis would relocate from Alabama to the state of Georgia, and embark on a political career.
In 1981, Lewis was elected to the city council in Atlanta, GA. He ran for the U.S. House of Representatives in 1991 and has never looked back. His public engagement has been well received in Washington, D.C. and in Atlanta, GA. He has always called on God to bless his work and sought favor for his programs and agendas.
Many people worldwide, including the staff of the Traveler Weekly, are lifting Mr. Lewis in prayer.
Some historical books on Mr. Lewis’ life include We the People — Selma’s Bloody Sunday (Lucia Raatma), Selma, Lord, Selma (Sheyann Webb and Rachel West Nelson), The Oxford Companion to African American Literature (Andrews, Foster, and Harris) and the African Americans (Charles M. Collins) to name a few.