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'We All Know That John Got in Trouble'

Georgia congressman John Lewis is remembered in Alabama
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jul 25, 2020 1:30 PM CDT

(Newser) – Civil rights icon and longtime Georgia congressman John Lewis was remembered Saturday—in the rural Alabama county where his story began—as a humble man who sprang from his family’s farm with a vision that "good trouble" could change the world, the AP reports. The morning service in the city of Troy in rural Pike County was held at Troy University, where Lewis would often playfully remind the chancellor that he was denied admission in 1957 because he was Black, and where he was later awarded an honorary doctorate. Lewis, who became a civil rights icon and a longtime Georgia congressman, died July 17 at the age of 80. Saturday morning's service was titled "The Boy from Troy," the nickname the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. gave Lewis in 1958 in Montgomery. Among the remarks:

  • "I remember the day that John left home. Mother told him not to get in trouble, not to get in the way ... but we all know that John got in trouble, got in the way but it was good trouble," his brother Samuel Lewis said at the Troy University service, where attendees were spaced apart, masks were required for entry, and Lewis' casket was in the university's arena. "And the troubles that he got himself into would change the world."
  • "The John Lewis I want you to know is the John Lewis who would gravitate to the least of these," his brother Henry Grant Lewis said, a Biblical reference to Jesus' instructions to aid those in need. His brother said on the day Lewis was sworn in to Congress that they exchanged a thumbs up. He later asked Lewis what he was thinking when they did. "He said 'I was thinking this is a long way from the cotton fields of Alabama.'"
  • "The fire inside John to do something about segregation continued to burn," said civil rights lawyer Fred Gray. "Even before he met Dr. King, he was interested in doing something about doing away with segregation. And he did it all his life."
  • "He had a way of throwing them corn while he was preaching," younger sister Rosa Tyner remembered of Lewis, who was one of 10 children born into a sharecropping family. She said that about a week before his death she asked him about possibly seeing another doctor. "He said, 'No, I'm at peace. I'm at peace and I'm ready to go.'"

It was the first of multiple days of memorials and services for Lewis.

(Read more John Lewis stories.)

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