On Monday the late Lillian Miles Lewis, wife of District 5 Congressman John Lewis, was laid to rest at funeral services inside the Historic Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta. Mrs. Lewis died last week at the age of 73.
Lewis was a powerful force in her own right, encouraging her husband to enter the political arena in the late 1970s. She remained one of his closest advisors throughout their 44 years of marriage.
At the funeral, family, friends and Atlantans from across the city, honored Lewis’ life at the church.
Mayor Kasim Reed was in attendance, as were former mayors Shirley Franklin and Bill Campbell. The full Atlanta City Council was present along with several members of Congress, including David Scott, Sanford Bishop and Hank Johnson.
The funeral was also attended by many notable guests from out of state, including House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, Jim Clyburn of South Carolina, John Conyers of Michigan and Shelia Jackson Lee of Texas. Both of Georgia’s current US Senators, Johnny Isakson and Saxby Chambliss, were on hand as well.
In addition to her work counseling her husband in politics, Mrs. Lewis was a driving force in the creation of the Atlanta Black-Jewish Coalition (ABJC). She helped plan programs and visited schools during King Week when the American Jewish Committee held “teach-ins” about Dr. King.
“I remember how hard Lillian worked on our Coalition programs on Jewish ties to Israel and Black ties to Africa,” said Sherry Frank former AJC Atlanta Director. “She was so knowledgeable about the world and proud to bring her Atlanta University scholars from Africa to these programs to educate us and build bridges of understanding.”
Atlanta City Council members released the following statements on the passing of Mrs. Lewis:
“I was deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Mrs. Lillian Miles Lewis,” said Council President Ceasar C. Mitchell. “Not only was she a devoted wife to Congressman John Lewis, she was also actively involved in politics and the community. She and Congressman Lewis are a wonderful example of a couple dedicated to both service and each other. As we celebrate her legacy today, I want to extend my heartfelt condolences to her family and those whose lives she touched.”
“As a child, I felt blessed because I believed that when I was born, God had provided me with two sets of parents – my own and my godparents, John and Lillian Lewis,” said Post 1 At-Large Councilmember Michael Julian Bond. “Mrs. Lewis was an extraordinary woman – beautiful in spirit and in possession of a razor-sharp intellect. She always carried herself with an inspiring dignity. In watching her as I grew up, it was easy to see why Congressman Lewis fell in love with this astounding gentlewoman.”
“Mrs. Lewis was extraordinarily generous of her time with me as a young adult. She was full of political wisdom that I carry with me to this day,” District 2 Councilmember Kwanza Hall said. “I came to admire how she interacted with constituents and supporters, making each one feel valued as a human being.”
“Today’s remembrance was beautiful and uplifting, a testament to how Mrs. Lewis lived her life. She was thought highly of by all, and our wishes are with her family,” said District 10 Councilmember C.T. Martin.
“Our world is a better place because of the selfless love and devotion that Mrs. Lillian Lewis gave to her husband, and our country,” said District 11 Councilmember Keisha Lance Bottoms. “Her life has epitomized what it means to walk in grace and humility, while boldly demanding that all men and women be treated equally with dignity and respect. I will always remember her as a beautiful and kind woman and am eternally grateful for the many sacrifices that she and Congressman Lewis have made to improve the lives of others.”
“Mrs. Lewis was a dynamic individual. She maintained an inner strength that made it possible for her to be a wonderful and positive partner and supportive wife to her husband, John Lewis,” said District 4 Councilmember Cleta Winslow.
“Lillian Miles Lewis was a powerful woman in her own right; a silent hero whose contributions are evident in the body of work attributed to her husband’s political career,” said District 3 Councilmember Ivory Lee Young, Jr.
Photo: Rep. John Lewis leaves Ebenezer Baptist Church, flanked by supporters. Photo credit: J. Glenn Photography