JOHN R. LEWIS Biography - Polititians


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Name: John Robert Lewis                                                                       
Born: 21 February 1940 Troy, Alabama                                                         
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.                   
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             
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."                       
Lewis (far right) with Bayard Rustin, Andrew Young, William Fitts Ryan, and                   
James L. Farmer, Jr.                                                                         
"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.                                                                               
"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."                                               
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.                                                                             
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 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.                                             
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..           
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."           
For many years, he has served on the powerful House Ways and Means Committee and             
is the chairman of its Subcommittee on Oversight.                                             
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.                                                         
He was one of the 31 who voted in the House to not count the electoral votes                 
from Ohio in the 2004 presidential election.                                                 
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.                                       
On October 12, 2007, Lewis endorsed the presidential campaign of Senator Hillary             
Clinton. On February 14, 2008, Lewis spoke with the Associated Press and                     
suggested he might reverse his endorsement in light of Senator Barack Obama's                 
increased momentum: "It could (happen). There's no question about it. It could               
happen with a lot of people. ... We can count, and we see the clock." Later                   
that day, Lewis announced he was withdrawing his support from Senator Clinton                 
and would instead cast his superdelegate vote for Barack Obama: "Something is                 
happening in America and people are prepared and ready to make that great leap."             
However, a spokesperson for Lewis' office stated that the report in the New York             
Times was "inaccurate". On February 27, 2008, Lewis formally changed his                     
support and endorsed Barack Obama.