Biography: Congressman John Lewis


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.

Lewis became nationally known during his prominent role in the Selma to Montgomery marches. During the first march police attacked the peaceful demonstrators and beat Lewis mercilessly in public, leaving head wounds that are still visible today. At the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom of 1963, Lewis, a representative of [SNCC], the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, was the youngest speaker. 

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 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 ten times without serious opposition, often with over 70 percent of the vote.

Lewis was present on the stage during the inauguration of Barack Obama, as the only living speaker from the rally at the March on Washington. Obama signed a commemorative photograph for Lewis with the words, “Because of you, John. Barack Obama."


Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Black History Month

Civil rights hero, Rita Samuels, rose to White House consultant
Civil rights hero, Rita Samuels, rose to White House consultant

You know, I just made it very clear to the governor that I did not represent the total black community, that I was black and I had my own background, my own training and experience. And whatever answer I gave to him would be based on all of those things. And the way I thought that we should work would be to have me call up some people, you know, and...
MLK’s granddaughter makes a splash in Washington’s March for Our Lives
MLK’s granddaughter makes a splash in Washington’s March for Our Lives

Yolanda Renee King, granddaughter of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and daughter of Martin Luther King III, took the stage in Washington to deliver a message. "My grandfather had a dream that his four little children would not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character," she told the crowd. "I have a...
Arthur McAfee was longtime Morehouse basketball coach, athletic director
Arthur McAfee was longtime Morehouse basketball coach, athletic director

There is no actual proof that Spike Lee tried out for the Morehouse College basketball team in the late 1970s. Further, it can’t be confirmed that Coach Arthur McAfee Jr. launched a legendary film career by looking at the 5-5 Lee and saying, “I want you to concentrate on something that you have as much passion about as playing basketball...
Biography: Congressman John Lewis
Biography: Congressman John Lewis

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...
AJC Sepia Martin Luther King Jr. Tribute Playlist
AJC Sepia Martin Luther King Jr. Tribute Playlist

Martin Luther King Jr. would have been 89-years-old on Monday.  In the 50 years since his death, literally dozens of songs – crossing a wide range of genres – have been dedicated to his memory and inspired by his words and works.  As a theologian, King understood and appreciated music.  As a civil rights leader, he understood...
More Stories