The John Lewis Legacy

Published 7:51 pm Friday, February 25, 2022

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The Banks Middle School student was wearing a tan trench coat, a white shirt and black tie. He had a pack on his back.

Jakori Green portrayed John Robert Lewis as he was when he walked across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma on Bloody Sunday, March 7, 1965.

“In that back pack, John Robert Lewis had a toothbrush and toothpaste, an apple, an orange and a book,” said Ron Lewis, a nephew of the Civil Rights Legend and U.S. Congressman from Georgia. “As a Civil Rights marcher, John thought he would be stopped by law enforcement and have to spend a night in jail. John was an avid reader so, he carried a book in order to make wise use of his time behind bars.”

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 But, instead John Lewis was attacked by state and local lawmen, received a concussion and spent the night in the hospital,”

The students at Banks Middle School sat quietly and listened as Ron Lewis talked about his Uncle John, who in his youth, was a student at Banks School.

The Lewis family was at Banks Middle School on Thursday to talk about the role Banks Elementary School played in the education of young John Lewis, to tell the students about the John Robert Lewis Legacy Institute (JRLLI), which was newly founded by his family to keep Lewis’ legacy alive and celebrate his lifelong commitment to service and to make a donation to the Banks Middle School reading program.

John Lewis attend Pike County schools at Banks primary and graduated from Pike County Training School in Brundidge.

Ron Lewis said his family’s desire is help instill John Lewis’ love of books and of reading in young people through the John Robert Lewis Legacy Institute.

The JRLLI seeks to strengthen communities through initiatives centered around social justice, education equality and health awareness.

Ron Lewis said the Georgia Congressman’s home was “wall to wall” with books, many of those books were history books.

“History is history,” he said. “And, nothing is bad. All races fought for Civil Rights.”

Stories were shared about Pike County native John R. Lewis, about how, as a youngster, he preached to the chickens and how the first book he read about Dr. Martin Luther King was a comic book. Reading was a life-long passion for the legendary Civil Rights Leader and US Congressman.

The students were introduced to books that tell the story of “The March” and the Civil Rights Movement and of John Robert Lewis who was a major player in those events.

Shantell Rouse, Banks School principal, expressed appreciation to the Lewis family for the generous donation to the school’s reading program. She thanked them for taking time to visit the school so the students would know that one of their own was a history maker and that, even after his death, he continues to make a positive difference in the civil rights of all Americans.

Following the program at Banks Middle School, the Lewis family, including Lewis’ siblings, Henry Lewis, Ethel Tyner and Samuel Lewis, traveled to Pike County Elementary School in Brundidge where they met with students to tell them about John Robert Lewis, his love of books and his dedication to quality education for all.

PCES Principal Rodney Drish said it was an honor to have the Lewis family visit Pike County Elementary School and he could think of no greater gift for his students than the contribution to the school’s reading program.