By Interfaith Gazette Staff
Many years ago John “ROBERT”Lewis started his journey in Troy, Alabama as the son of a Sharecropper, that which became known to many of us to represent “picking cotton in the fields of a White man all day and going home with very little money in your pocket at the end of the day because the crop was shared”. This legacy that would soon take a turn on his life came at a time when the Civil Rights Movement was shaping a birth that would change the face of this nation and Black people who had been spending days, weeks, months, and years hoping and praying for a change to come that would free negroes, and offer up opportunities that gave the resemblance of equal rights.
However, THE BOY FROM TROY, John Robert Lewis, made a risky move and tried his hand at reaching out to go out. His letter to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. served as not just an introduction to Dr. King, rather an introduction to orchestrate an invitation that would offer up hope, challenges, blood, sweat, and tears that changed his life forever. Dr. King responded to him and an affirmative invite precipitated a new move for John Lewis that changed his life and those who came to know him, forever. He left Troy and moved to Georgia where he became deeply rooted in the movement and going on to become a Congressman in 1986.
Congressman Lewis’s life was immersed in changing the lives of others. His complimentary connection to Dr. King, touched my life in a way that prompted me to touch the lives of others. As a young girl growing up in Samson, Alabama, just 40 miles from Congressman’s home of Troy, I had the awesome experience of meeting him as he rode the small towns in our area as a Freedom Rider. His trips to my little town offered me the opportunity to catch a ride in the FREEDOM RIDERS VAN as they went from house to house. What a ride that changed my life forever. I would go on to be so charged and compelled to make a difference, because of that ride with him, that I would soon find myself taking on the fervor and the plight to make a difference by being different. I wanted to coordinate to integrate my little town, I did. A trip to the Uptown Cafe one day during a lunch hour at our all Black school, would give me enough courage to leave with two other classmates, Kathleen and Dorothy Jean Williams, who were very sure that I would not get them in trouble by leaving school and going Uptown, for the purpose of GOING IN THE FRONT DOOR OF THE CAFE AND NOT THE BACK DOOR on this day.
We went in. We walked passed White men flicking their suspenders but never stopped until we got to the counter to order 3 hamburgers. I ordered them, it took a minute to get them because they questioned if we had money to buy them. Of course our lunch hour was coming to a close and finally we got the hamburgers, paid for them and walked out. No, we did not eat them and had to wait until we got home to eat because we had missed lunch at the school. But It happened. The change had taken place. We did it again.
This story is not so much about us, it’s about Congressman John “ROBERT” Lewis who changed my life and ultimately helped us to change the lives of people in our little town. He asked my mother if I could ride with them in the van. She must have seen something in him that did not offer any fear of entrusting her little girl to take a trip around town with them. The van trip made me feel as a little girl that I too was a FREEDOM RIDER! Thank you Congressman John “ROBERT” Lewis for your courage and my ride. I will forever be grateful for this experience. It shaped my life and who I am today.
And as I close this tribute to such a great man, we cannot let his legacy, his life, be in vain as this struggle continues. Let us never forget his labor of love for humanity and his people, as we must all be willing to get in “GOOD TROUBLE”!
Thank you Congressman John “ROBERT”Lewis for a job well done; We loved you!