Lillian Miles was married to Civil Right leader and congressman, John Lewis. Her husband is regarded as one of the most courageous persons in the Civil Rights Movement and his late wife, was one of his biggest supporters.
Lillian’s husband was born February 21, 1940. As a student at Fisk University, John Lewis organized sit-in demonstrations at segregated lunch counters in Nashville, Tennessee. In 1961, he volunteered to participate in the Freedom Rides, which challenged segregation at interstate bus terminals across the South.
During the height of the Movement, from 1963 to 1966, Lewis was named Chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), which he helped form. SNCC was largely responsible for organizing student activism in the Movement, including sit-ins and other activities.
In the early 60’s he was dubbed one of the Big Six leaders of the Civil Rights Movement. At the age of 23, he was an architect of and a keynote speaker at the historic March on Washington in August 1963.
In March 1965, on the day that would become known as ‘bloody Sunday’ a 25-year-old Lewis would become nationally known after leading over 600 marchers across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama. That day, Lewis was beaten by a State Trooper and was one of 58-people who received medical assistance.
In 1981, he was elected to Atlanta City Council, and five years later, he was elected to Congress, where he still serves as US Representative of Georgia’s Congressional District.
He has dedicated his life to protecting human rights, and his efforts have won him the respect of both Republicans and Democrats. The Alabama native has received over 50 honorary degrees from prestigious universities, and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011 by President Barack Obama.
1. They were married for over four decades.
Lillian Miles and John Lewis were married for 44-years before her death. The couple tied the knot in 1968 and soon after they settled into a home in southwest Atlanta.
Lillian Lewis was a Los Angeles native who met John Lewis at a New Year’s Eve party in 1967.
4. She was a devoted and supportive wife.
According to Lewis’ memoir “Walking With the Wind” Lillian was outgoing, involved, intelligent and great in front of an audience – she could make a speech. She also knew how to organize, how to chair a meeting, the nitty-gritty stuff. When she finally said, ‘Let’s do it. Let’s go for it,’ that was enough. We were in.”
5. She was very involved in politics.
She had been a delegate (supporting Shirley Chisholm) to the Democratic National Convention in ’72, and she was constantly active in a variety of local circles and organizations.
6. She worked as a librarian at Atlanta University.
Lillian Lewis later directed Atlanta University’s Institute for International Affairs and Development and served as the manager of external affairs after the school merged with Clark College, becoming Clark Atlanta University.