John Lewis (politician)

John Lewis (politician)

Infobox Congressman
name =John Lewis

date of birth=birth date and age|1940|02|21
place of birth =Troy, Alabama
state = Georgia
district = 5th
term_start =January 6, 1987
preceded = Wyche Fowler
succeeded = Incumbent
religion = Baptist
party =Democratic
spouse = Lillian Miles
alma_mater= American Baptist Theological Seminary, Fisk University
occupation= political consultant, civil rights leader
residence= Atlanta, Georgia

John Robert Lewis (born February 21, 1940) is an American politician and was a leader in the American Civil Rights Movement. He was chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and played a key role in the struggle to end segregation. Lewis, a member of the Democratic Party, has represented Georgia's 5th Congressional District ( [ map] ) in the United States House of Representatives since 1987. The district encompasses almost all of Atlanta.

Early life and activism

Born in Troy, Alabama, the son of sharecroppers, Lewis was educated at the American Baptist Theological Seminary and at Fisk University, both in Nashville, Tennessee, where he became active in the local sit-in movement. He participated in the Freedom Rides to desegregate the South, and was a national leader in the struggle for civil rights. Lewis became nationally known after his prominent role on the Selma to Montgomery marches, when police beat the nonviolently marching Lewis mercilessly in public, leaving head wounds that are still visible today.

Of John Lewis, the historian Howard Zinn wrote: "At the great Washington March of 1963, the chairman of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), John Lewis, speaking to the same enormous crowd that heard Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech, was prepared to ask the right question: 'Which side is the federal government on?' That sentence was eliminated from his speech by organizers of the March to avoid offending the 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."cite web
title="My Name Is Freedom Albany, Georgia"
publisher=Beacon Press
work=You Can't Be Neutral on A Moving Train

"John Lewis and SNCC had reason to be angry. John had been beaten bloody by a white mob in Montgomery as a Freedom Rider in the spring of 1961. The federal government had trusted the notoriously racist Alabama police to protect the Riders, but done nothing itself except to have FBI agents take notes. Instead of insisting that blacks and whites had a right to ride the buses together, the Kennedy Administration called for a 'cooling-off period,' a moratorium on Freedom Rides.cite web
title="My Name Is Freedom Albany, Georgia"
publisher=Beacon Press
work=You Can't Be Neutral on A Moving Train

"The white population could not possibly be unaffected by those events—some whites more stubborn in their defense of segregation, but others beginning to think in different ways. And the black population was transformed, having risen up in mass action for the first time, feeling its power, knowing now that if the old order could be shaken it could be toppled."cite web
title="My Name Is Freedom Albany, Georgia"
publisher=Beacon Press
work=You Can't Be Neutral on A Moving Train

On October 5 1963, Zinn began an article called "The Battle-Scarred Youngsters" in "The Nation" in this way:

Standing at the foot of the Lincoln Memorial, John Lewis turned his wrath, not at the easy target, the Dixiecrats, but against the Administration....

To many, the March had been presented as a gigantic lobby for the Administration's Civil Rights Bill, but Lewis pointed quickly, unerringly, to the weaknesses in the bill. Furthermore, by sponsoring a new civil-rights bill, the Administration had skillfully turned attention to Congress, and deflected the erratic spotlight of the civil-rights movement from possibly focusing on inadequacies of the Executive.

The straight, crass fact at which John Lewis was aiming is this: the national government, without any new legislation, has the power to protect Negro voters and demonstrators from policemen's clubs, hoses and jails—and it has not used that power.

The full article was later reprinted in "Reporting Civil Rights: American Journalism 1963–1973."cite web|accessdate=
format=reprinted in Reporting Civil Rights: Reporters and Writers: Howard Zinn
author=Zinn, Howard
title="The Battle-Scarred Youngsters"
work=The Nation
date=October 5, 1963

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.

Lewis has cited former Florida Sen. and Congressman Claude Pepper, a staunch New-Dealer and an outspoken white, southern liberal during his half-century in politics, as being the colleague that he has most admired. [ [ The Tuesday Ten: An Interview with Rep. John Lewis, "The Emory Wheel", 4.21.08] ]

Political career

Lewis first ran for elective office in 1977, when a vacancy occurred in Georgia's 5th District. A special election was called after President Jimmy Carter appointed incumbent Congressman Andrew Young to be U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. Lewis lost the race to Atlanta City Councilman and future Senator Wyche Fowler. In 1981, Lewis was himself elected to the Atlanta City Council.

In 1986, when Fowler ran for the United States Senate, Lewis defeated fellow civil rights leader Julian Bond in the Democratic primary to succeed Fowler in the 5th District. This win was tantamount to election in the heavily Democratic, majority-black 5th District. Lewis was the second African-American to represent Georgia in Congress since Reconstruction. Young was the first. Lewis has been re-elected nine times without serious opposition, often with over 70 percent of the vote. He has been unopposed for reelection since 2002 but faced two primary opponents in 2008.

Since 1991, Lewis has been senior chief deputy whip in the Democratic caucus. He is a member of the Congressional Black Caucus and Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc.. He was an influential aide for the Clinton Cabinet, and had regular meetings with the administration.

Lewis is, according to the Associated Press, "the first major House figure to suggest impeaching George W. Bush," arguing that the president "deliberately, systematically violated the law" in authorizing the National Security Agency to conduct wiretaps without a warrant. Lewis said, "He is not King, he is president."cite web|accessdate=
title=The I-Word is Gaining Ground-UPDATED
author=Vanden Heuvel, Katrina
date=January 2, 2006
work=The Nation

Lewis, an outspoken progressive and staunch opponent of the Iraq War, endorsed Joe Lieberman for re-election to the Senate in 2006, despite Lieberman's loss to Ned Lamont in the Democratic primary.cite news|accessdate=
url= |title=Lieberman campaign files forms to run as petitioning candidate -
author=Haigh, Susan
date=July 10, 2006
publisher=The Boston Globe (Associated Press)

He was one of the 31 who voted in the House to not count the electoral votes from Ohio in the 2004 presidential election. [cite web|accessdate=
title=Final Vote Results for Roll Call 7
date=January 6, 2005
publisher=Office of the Clerk, U.S. House of Representatives

Lewis delivered the Commencement Address at the University of Massachusetts Lowell on Sunday June 3 2007 at Edward A. LeLacheur Park.

In September 2007, Lewis was awarded the Dole Leadership Prize from the Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics at the University of Kansas. [ [ "Civil Rights Movement Pioneer to receive Dole Leadership Prize"] , September 26, 2007.]

On Sunday, October 1, 2007 Congressman Lewis paid tribute to James Meredith at the dedication of The University of Mississippi's James Meredith Monument. The speech and the monument commemorated civil rights pioneer James H. Meredith, who among other endeavors, led the 1966 James Meredith March Against Fear. After the wounding of Meredith in an assassination attempt, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Stokeley Carmicheal continued the march that started the chant "Black Power!".

On October 12 2007, Lewis endorsed the presidential campaign of Senator Hillary Clinton. [cite web|accessdate=
date=October 12, 2007
title=Rep. Lewis endorses Clinton
work=CNN Political Ticker

On October 21, 2007, Congressman Lewis helped to welcome the Dalai Lama of Tibet to Atlanta and Emory University.

On February 14, 2008, Lewis announced he was considering withdrawing his support from Senator Clinton and may instead cast his superdelegate vote for Barack Obama: "Something is happening in America and people are prepared and ready to make that great leap."cite news|accessdate=
title=Black Leader, a Clinton Ally, Tilts to Obama
author=Zeleny, Jeff and Patrick Healy
date=February 15, 2008
quote=Representative John Lewis said he planned to cast his vote as a superdelegate for Barack Obama in hopes of preventing a fight at the Democratic convention.
] On February 27, 2008, Lewis formally changed his support and endorsed Barack Obama.cite news|accessdate=2008-02-28
title=Civil rights leader John Lewis switches to Obama
quote=The Georgia congressman, who had previously endorsed Clinton, says he wants 'to be on the side of the people.'
date=February 28, 2008
format=from the Associate Press
work=Los Angeles Times
] [cite web|accessdate=
date=February 27, 2008
title=Lewis switches from Clinton to Obama
work=CNN Political Ticker

Lewis stated after Barack Obama clinched the democratic nomination for president, “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.” [ [ Black lawmakers emotional about Obama's success - Josephine Hearn - ] ]

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 primary election has set up campaign headquarters inside the building that served as Obama's Georgia office. [ [ NY Times Advertisement ] ]

Committee Assignments

*Ways & Means Committee
**Subcommittee on Oversight (Chairman)
**Subcommittee on Income Security and Family Support
*Co-chair of the Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) Caucus
*Bipartisan Taskforce on Nonproliferation



* "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 Michael 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.

External links

* [ U.S. Congressman John Lewis] , U.S. House site
* [ SourceWatch Congresspedia — John Lewis] profile
* [ John Lewis for Congress] , Campaign site
* [ Oral History Interview with John Lewis] from [ Oral Histories of the American South]

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