During the Civil Rights Movement, U.S. Representative John Lewis was a crucial part of obtaining the goals set by the Black community. He took harsh beatings from police and angry mobs, defied the law by sitting in 'whites only' designated areas and became a leading member of the Student Nonviolent Coordination Committee (SNCC).
Before he became a U.S. Representative, John Lewis had led over 600 peaceful protesters across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama in 1965, demanding voter rights. Between 1963 and 1968, Senator Lewis had been arrested over 40 times in the name of civil rights.
In 1966, Rep. Lewis resigned from his SNCC chair. He remained active in voter registration programs but began to center his focus on voter education.
His hard work and dedication to the Voter Education Project signed up four million minority voters for future elections.
They married in 1968 after they had met at a mutual friend's New Year's Eve party.
In 1972, she was a delegate to the Democratic National Convention in support of Shirley Chisholm, the first Black Congresswoman.
Five years later in 1977, Lillian Miles supported her husband's decision to run in the Congressional race. He ended up losing but became Wyche Fowler's chief adviser.
Mrs. Lewis was described as an intellectual who "fascinated the late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. by being able to quote his speeches verbatim" (AJC.com).
Apart from being Rep. Lewis's "wife, friend and political adviser," Mrs. Lewis was also passionate about education and Africa.
After graduating with her master's at the University of Southern California, she taught a student program in Nigeria in 1960. Later on, she returned to the country as a Peace Corps volunteer.
Lillian Lewis also taught as the associate director of the Institute for International Affairs and Development at Atlanta University from 1984 to 1989.
During her time at the university, she was able to develop her own major in international studies that focused on Africa and the Caribbean.
If not for Clayton and Dr. Bernard Lafayette playing matchmaker on New Year's Eve in 1967, John Lewis may not have become the U.S. Representative that he is today.
They say behind every strong man, is an even stronger woman and for 44 years that woman was Lillian Miles Lewis.
May she rest in peace.