WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn (SC-6) delivered the following remarks on the House floor to remember and pay tribute to his late friend and colleague, Congressman John Robert Lewis:
Click image to watch the full floor statement.
“I thank the gentlelady for yielding me the time. You know, Mr. Speaker, I cringe often when I hear people talk about the 1960s as the Civil Rights Movement. I always put an ‘s’ on that. The Stono Rebellion was in 1739. It was a Civil Rights Movement. Denmark Vesey’s insurrection was 1822. That was a Civil Rights Movement. The Niagara Movement that led to the creation of the NAACP more than 100 years ago was a Civil Rights Movement.
“John Lewis and I met in October 1960, at a Civil Rights Movement. For as long as there are people held in suppression, there will always be a movement for civil rights. However, in any movement there will be a few, sometimes only one, that rises head and shoulders above all others.
“And so it was, with my good friend, John Robert Lewis. When we met the weekend of October 13, 14, 15, 1960, on the campus of Morehouse College, there was a little bit of an insurrection taking place. We, who were college students, felt that we knew how best to do things. We were not listening to Martin Luther King Jr. and a few others. And so, we asked King to meet with us, and he did. We went into the meeting around 10:00 in the evening. We did not walk out of that room until 4:00 the next morning. I came out of that room having had a Saul to Paul transformation. I’ve never been the same since, but listening to King’s plea for nonviolence, I decided, along with most others, to accept nonviolence as a tactic. But not John Lewis—he internalized it. It became his way of life.
“After going through a few issues of the 1960s, you know, John got elected president of SNCC in 1963 and was summarily dethroned in 1966. But John then joined the effort, the Voter Education Project, where he directed the response by the Southern Regional Council. And as he served as director of the Voter Education Project headquartered in Atlanta, I became the chair of the Voter Education Project in Charleston, South Carolina, and we continued that relationship. He got married to a librarian. I got married to a librarian. Though I did so before he did. And they became fast friends. Lillian and Emily became fast friends. I will never, ever get John Robert Lewis out of my system because he succeeded where I failed. It was a tactic for me. It was a way of life for John Lewis, and I yield back.”