John Lewis

John Lewis was born the son of sharecroppers on February 21, 1940 outside of Troy, Alabama. He grew up on his family's farm and attended segregated public schools in Pike County, Alabama. 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, Tennessee. During the height of the Civil Rights Movement, from 1963 to1966, 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 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 of the Civil Rights Movement. (The other Big Six leaders were Whitney Young, A. Phillip 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. In 1964, John Lewis coordinated SNCC efforts to organize voters' registration drives and community action programs during the "Mississippi Freedom Summer." The following year, Lewis led one of the most dramatic nonviolent protests of the Movement. Along with fellow activist, Hosea Williams, John Lewis led over 600 marchers across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama 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, Alabama led to the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Despite more that 40 arrests, physical attacks and serious injuries, John Lewis remained a devoted advocate of the philosophy of nonviolence. After leaving SNCC in 1966, he remained active in the Civil Rights Movement through his work as Associate Director of the Field Foundation and his participation in the Southern Regional Council's voter registration programs. Lewis went on to become the Director of the Voter Education Project (VEP). Under his leadership, the VEP transformed the nation's political climate by adding nearly four million minorities to the voter rolls. In 1977, John Lewis was appointed by President Jimmy Carter to direct more than 250,000 volunteers of ACTION, the federal volunteer agency.John Lewis's first electoral success came in 1981 when he was elected to the Atlanta City Council. While serving on the Atlanta City Council, Lewis was an advocate for ethics in government and neighborhood preservation. He resigned from the Council in 1986 to run for Congress. Elected to Congress in November 1986, Lewis represents Georgia's Fifth Congressional District. The Congressional District encompasses the entire city of Atlanta, Georgia and parts of Fulton, DeKalb, Clayton and Cobb counties. In 1996, John Lewis was unopposed in his bid for a sixth term and is currently serving his ninth term in office. In the 108th Congress, Lewis is a member of the influential House Budget Committee and House Ways and Means Committee, where he serves on the Subcommittee on Health. Congressman Lewis serves as Senior Chief Deputy Democratic Whip. As such, he sits in a direct line of succession to the number two Democratic leadership position in the House. Congressman Lewis also serves on the Democratic Steering Committee. He is also a member of the Congressional Black Caucus and the Congressional Committee to Support Writers and Journalists. Additionally, Congressman Lewis serves as Co-Chair of the Faith and Politics Institute.