A key figure in some of the most pivotal moments of the Civil Rights Movement, John Lewis was the face of the Nashville Student Movement, chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, an original Freedom Rider, and one of the keynote speakers at the historic 1963 March on Washington. Even in the face of hatred and violence, Lewis remained resolute in his commitment to what he liked to call “good trouble.”
Devoted to equality and justice for all Americans, Lewis spent more than 30 years in the U.S. House of Representatives steadfastly defending and building on key civil rights gains that he helped achieve in the 1960s. He was a staunch and unwavering believer in and advocate for nonviolent protests. The recipient of more than 50 honorary degrees, he was called a “saint” by Time magazine and “the conscience of the Congress” by his colleagues.
He served as executive director of the Voter Education Project; as associate director of ACTION, the federal volunteer agency that oversaw the Peace Corps and Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA); and as a member of the Atlanta City Council. He was also the author of several bestselling books, including the “March” comic book series and the inspiring autobiography “Walking With the Wind.”
Elected to represent Georgia in the U.S. House of Representatives in 1986, Lewis garnered the support needed to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1991, sponsored the legislation that created the 54-mile Selma-to-Montgomery National Historic Trail, and worked for more than a decade to establish the National Museum of African American History and Culture on the National Mall in Washington, DC. He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, by President Barack Obama.