Durr Lecture Series



Congressman John Lewis

April 2, 2000
7:30 p.m.
Irma B. Moore Hall Auditorium



William Honey


Guin Nance

Durr Family

Ann Durr Lyon

Introduction of Congressman Lewis

Allen K. Hess

Congressman Lewis


Questions and Answers


Closing Remarks

William Honey

John Lewis

Born the son of a sharecropper in Troy, Alabama, John Lewis graduated from Fisk University, became co-founder and chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), leader of the first Civil Rights March across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma on "Bloody Sunday," elected to Congress from Georgia's Fifth Congressional District, Chief Deputy Democratic Whip, and recipient of the prestigious Martin Luther King, Jr., Non-Violent Peace Prize, and the first Eleanor Roosevelt Award for Human Rights.
Described as “one of the most courageous persons the Civil Rights Movement every produced,” John Lewis has dedicated his life to protecting human rights, securing personal dignity and building what he calls “The Beloved Community.”
John Lewis was born the son of sharecroppers in 1940 outside of Troy, Alabama. He grew up on his family's farm and attended segregated public schools in Pike County. He holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Religion and Philosophy from Fisk University, and he is a graduate of the American Baptist Theological Seminary in Nashville. He has also been awarded numerous honorary degrees.
In 1961, John Lewis participated in the Freedom Rides, which were organized to challenge segregation at interstate bus terminals across the South. Lewis risked his life and was beaten severely several times for participating in the Rides.
During the Civil Rights Movement, from 1963 to 1966, Lewis was the Chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), which he helped form. SNCC was largely responsible for the sit-ins and other activities of the students in the struggle for civil rights.
Despite his youth, John Lewis became a recognized leader in the Civil Rights Movement. By 1963 he was recognized as one of the "Big Six" leaders, which included Whitney Young,
A. Philip Randolph, Martin Luther King, Jr., James Farmer and Roy Wilkins. Lewis at the age of 23 was one of the planners and a keynote speaker at the historic “March on Washington” in August 1963.
Lewis led one of the most dramatic nonviolent protests of the Civil Rights Movement. Along with fellow activist, Hosea Williams, Lewis led 525 marchers across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma on March 7, 1965. Alabama state troopers attacked the marchers in a confrontation that became known as "Bloody Sunday." That fateful march and a subsequent march between Selma and Montgomery led to the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
After leaving SNCC in 1966, Lewis remained active in the Civil Rights Movement through his work as associate director of the Field Foundation and participation in the Southern Regional Council's voter registration programs, and then as director of the Voter Registration Project, which added nearly four million minorities to the voter rolls. In 1977 John Lewis was appointed by President Carter to direct more than 250,000 volunteers of ACTION. In 1981 Lewis was elected to the Atlanta City Council. In 1986 he ran for Congress from Georgia's Fifth Congressional District. In 1996 he was unopposed in his bid for a sixth term, and he won reelection to a seventh term in 1998.
John Lewis is a member of the prestigious House Ways and Means Committee. He also serves as a Chief Deputy Democratic Whip. He serves on the influential Democratic Steering Committee and is co-chair of the Congressional Urban Caucus and the Congressional Caucus on Anti-Semitism. He is also a member of the Congressional Black Caucus and the Congressional Committee to Support Writers and Journalists. Additionally, Congressman Lewis is the Immediate Past President of the Americans for Democratic Action.
At the 1992 Democratic National Convention, John Lewis was chosen to second the nomination of Al Gore for Vice President. He was one of seven members of the 1996 Presidential Debate Commission.
John Lewis, with writer Michael D'Orso, authored Walking with the Wind: A Memoir of the Movement (June 1998), which received the prestigious Robert F. Kennedy Book Award.