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JOHN LEWIS Printer Friendly Page
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  • Democratic Member of Congress
  • Activist in the civil rights movement
  • Member of the radical Progressive Caucus and the Congressional Black Caucus
  •  Made a 1994 speech comparing Republicans to Nazis
  • Has consistently voted to cut Intelligence funding


John Lewis is a Democratic Member of Congress who represents the Fifth District of Georgia, which includes most of Atlanta. This district, which is nearly 56 percent African-American and more than six percent Hispanic, in 2000 cast 70 percent of its votes for Al Gore.

John Lewis was born in 1940 in Troy, Alabama, the son of a sharecropper. As a child he preached in the family barnyard and seemed headed for the ministry. As he writes in his 1998 autobiography Walking With the Wind, at age 18 he met Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and a year later, in 1959, he was involved in the first sit-in at a segregated lunch counter. In May 1961, the same year he earned a degree from the American Baptist Theological Seminary, he was on the first Freedom Ride buses when they were attacked and set ablaze. He was savagely beaten in South Carolina and Montgomery, Alabama.  

As chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) 1963-1966, he spoke at the 1963 March on Washington and helped coordinate the Mississippi Freedom Project in 1964. His speeches blazed with fiery words: “We shall splinter the segregated South into a thousand pieces, and then put them back together in the image of God and democracy.” In 1965 his skull was fractured by police as he led the Selma-to-Montgomery voting rights march.

This authentic hero of the Civil Rights Movement was elected in 1981 to the Atlanta City Council. In 1986, with support from white and poor black voters, Lewis defeated Julian Bond in a primary runoff by using the slogan: “Vote for the tugboat, not the showboat.”

Congressman John Lewis belongs to the radical Progressive Caucus and the Black Caucus in the House of Representatives. He votes on the left side of issues 80-100 percent of the time, according to the leftwing Americans for Democratic Action (ADA). His politics have often been highly partisan, inflammatory and demagogic.

From the floor of the House on March 21, 1995 -- just four months after Republicans had won House and Senate majorities on the strength of their "Contract With America" -- Lewis paraphrased the anti-Nazi pastor Martin Niemoller’s historic observations about the Nazi takeover: "They came first for the Communists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist. Then they came for the Jews…trade unionists…Catholics…Protestants…" Then Lewis said grimly: "Read the Republican contract. They are coming for the children. They are coming for the poor. They are coming for the sick, the elderly, and the disabled."

In 2002 he spoke out against going to war in Iraq, but he did so in the name of his belief in nonviolence. When members of the Black Caucus in 2000 expressed doubts about Senator Joseph Lieberman (D.-Connecticut), an Orthodox Jew, as the Democratic Vice Presidential candidate, Lewis spoke strongly in Lieberman’s behalf. 

Dr. King, as Congressman Lewis explained to his supporters in a 2002 speech, “knew that both [blacks and Jews] were uprooted involuntarily from their homelands. He knew that both peoples were shaped by the tragic experience of slavery. He knew that both peoples were forced to live in ghettoes, victims of segregation. He knew that both peoples were subject to laws passed with the particular intent of oppressing them simply because they were Jewish or black. He knew that both peoples have been subjected to oppression and genocide on a level unprecedented in history.”

Lewis’ articulate defense of Jews and Israel recognized that today’s anti-Semites masquerade under the new banner of “anti-Zionism.” This was courageous for Lewis to say. His Democratic Party at its 1984 National Convention refused to allow a floor vote on a simple resolution repudiating anti-Semitism. Such a vote might have offended Presidential candidate Rev. Jesse Jackson, who had called New York City “Hymietown,” and Jackson’s campaign manager Rev. Louis Farrakhan, the leader of the Nation of Islam who had called Judaism a “gutter religion.” 

In 2004 one of the Democratic primary presidential candidates was Rev. Al Sharpton, who has referred to Jews as “diamond merchants” and led a march through a New York Jewish neighborhood that left smashed windows, not unlike the Nazis’ Kristallnacht. Sharpton received criticism for his anti-Semitic behavior from neither Establishment media nor the Democratic leadership. Both black and Leftwing factions within today’s Democratic Party include many activists who are anti-Israel and anti-Semitic.

Rep. Lewis says his voting record reflects his belief in religion and nonviolence, not leftwing ideology. But on almost all important issues he votes exactly the same way as do his openly socialist fellow members of the Progressive Caucus. A 2004 study about how the left undermined America’s security before the terrorist attacks that killed 3,000 Americans on 9/11 noted that John Lewis “voted to cut intelligence funding every time” the issue came before him. These votes have left the United States half-blind to what terrorist enemies were and are doing to threaten our security.  

Lewis is the Senior Chief Deputy Minority Whip and sits on the powerful House Budget and House Ways & Means Committees as well as on the Health Subcommittee. He was thwarted by Democratic Party leaders when he sought to become Whip in the House, and Georgia Democratic Governor Roy Barnes rejected Lewis’ request to be appointed to the U.S. Senate seat vacated by the death of Paul Coverdell. Gov. Barnes appointed a white Democrat instead. 

Lewis and recently retired Member of Congress J.C. Watts (R.-Oklahoma) co-sponsored successful legislation to create a commission to develop an African-American history museum on the Mall in Washington, D.C. They also co-sponsored legislation to study how best to recognize the contribution of slaves in the construction of the Capitol Building in which Congress sits.

Nearly 90 percent of Rep. Lewis’ campaign contributions come from Political Action Committees (PACs), with approximately 41 percent of his PAC money coming from organized labor and 56 percent from business. Among his biggest contributors are the insurance company AFLAC Inc., the Association of Trial Lawyers of America (ATLA), the Air Line Pilots Association, BellSouth Corporation, Coca-Cola Company, pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline and the American Society of Anesthesiologists, whose members are prime lawsuit targets for trial lawyers.

On October 8, 2013, Lewis was one of eight members of Congress (all Democrats) who were arrested when they sat in the middle of Independence Avenue and blocked rush-hour traffic during an immigration rally on Washington’s National Mall. Though the Mall was, at that time, legally closed due to a so-called “government shutdown” that had gone into effect a week earlier, the National Parks Service allowed the demonstration to take place because of First Amendment protections. Consisting of more than 15,000 participants, the rally was intended to persuade Congress to pass legislation allowing illegal immigrants to apply for U.S. citizenship. Also arrested were U.S. Representatives Joseph Crowley, Keith Ellison, Al Green, Raul Grijalva, Luis Gutierrez, Charles Rangel, and Jan Schakowsky.

In mid-July 2014, after at least 57,000 (mostly unaccompanied) Central American minors had crossed America's southern border illegally since October of the previous year, Lewis tweeted: "We are all connected. We can't just build a wall or a fence and say no more. This is America. Our doors are open."

Lewis serves as an honorary president of Americans for Democratic Action, along with such notables as Barney Frank, Jim McDermott, George McGovern, and Charles Rangel.



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