Civil rights hero to present college’s MLK address

Civil rights hero to present college’s MLK address

Hailed as a trailblazer of the civil rights movement, U.S. Rep. John Lewis will present the annual Martin Luther King Jr. address at 3:30 p.m. Jan. 26 in Callaway Auditorium. The event is free and open to the public.

Lewis has represented Georgia’s 5th Congressional District since 1986. Roll Call, a publication covering Capitol Hill since 1955, has called him “a genuine American hero and moral leader who commands widespread respect in the chamber.”
President Dan McAlexander said the college is honored to welcome a pioneer like Lewis to campus.

“For more than five decades, John Lewis has stood on the front lines of social change as a champion of civil rights,” he said. “He embodies the integrity and moral courage we strive to encourage in our students.”

Lewis was born the son of sharecroppers in 1940 outside Troy, Alabama.  He grew up on his family’s farm and attended segregated public schools.  As a young boy, he was inspired by the activism surrounding the Montgomery bus boycott and the words of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., which he heard on radio broadcasts.

As a student at Fisk University, 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 (1963—1966), Lewis was named chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, which he helped form. The group was largely responsible for organizing the movement’s student activism, including sit-ins and other activities.

By 1963, 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 1964, Lewis coordinated SNCC efforts to organize voter registration drives and community action programs during the Mississippi Freedom Summer. The following year, Lewis joined Hosea Williams to lead more than 600 protestors across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, on March 7, 1965.

Intending to march from Selma to Montgomery to demonstrate the need for voting rights in the state, the protestors were attacked by Alabama state troopers in a confrontation that became known as “Bloody Sunday.” News broadcasts and photographs of that day helped hasten the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

After leaving SNCC in 1966, he continued his commitment as associate director of the Field Foundation and through his participation in the Southern Regional Council’s voter registration programs. Lewis went on to become the director of the Voter Education Project. Under his leadership, the VEP transformed the nation’s political climate by adding nearly four million minorities to the voter rolls.

In 1977, Lewis was appointed by President Jimmy Carter to direct more than 250,000 volunteers of ACTION, the federal volunteer agency.

In 1981, he was elected to the Atlanta City Council. While serving on the council, he was an advocate for ethics in government and neighborhood preservation. He was elected to Congress in November 1986 and has served as U.S. Representative of Georgia’s Fifth Congressional District since then. He is senior chief deputy whip for the Democratic Party in leadership in the House, a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, a member of its subcommittee on income security and family support, and ranking member of its subcommittee on oversight.

Lewis holds a degree in religion and philosophy from Fisk University, and is a graduate of the American Baptist Theological Seminary, both in Nashville, Tennessee. He has been awarded more than 50 honorary degrees from colleges and universities throughout the United States, including Harvard University, Brown University, Princeton University, Duke University, Clark-Atlanta University, Columbia University, Fisk University and LaGrange College.

He received the nation’s highest civilian honor, the Medal of Freedom, from President Barack Obama, the Preservation Hero award given by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the Martin Luther King Jr. Non-Violent Peace Prize, the President’s Medal of Georgetown University, the NAACP Spingarn Medal, the National Education Association Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Award and the only John F. Kennedy “Profile in Courage Award” for lifetime achievement ever granted by the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation.

Lewis is the co-author of the New York Times bestselling graphic novel memoir trilogy “March.” The books have earned several awards and are being used in schools across the country to teach the civil rights movement. They also have been selected as a first-year common reading text at colleges and universities such as Michigan State University, Georgia State University and Marquette University.

He is also the author of “Across That Bridge: Life Lessons and a Vision for Change”written with Brenda Jones and winner of the 2012 NAACP Image Award for best literary work-biography. His biography, “Walking with the Wind: A Memoir of the Movement,” earned the Anisfield-Wolf book award as well as the Robert F. Kennedy book award. He is also the subject of “Freedom Riders: John Lewis and Jim Zwerg on the Front Lines of the Civil Rights Movement” and “John Lewis in the Lead.”

He has been interviewed for documentaries, news broadcasts, and journals, including The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, CNN Headline News, CSPAN’s Washington Journal, Time magazine, Newsweek magazine, The New Yorker, New York Times, Washington Post, USA Today, the Atlanta Journal Constitution and the Boston Globe.

In the headlines

Neighbor spotlight: Josh Van Lieu – LaGrange Daily News, Jan. 9, 2017

Heeding the ‘call’ – LaGrange Daily News, Jan. 10, 2017

No links available
Panthers get pair of victories – LaGrange Daily News, Jan. 9, 2017

Class looks at lone wolf terrorist threats – LaGrange Daily News, Jan. 9, 2017

Smithsonian director to discuss new museum – LaGrange Daily News, Jan. 9, 2017


Junior @rachael_thomas enjoying her study abroad Jan Term in El Salvador. #pantherwlax #regram #lcjanterm @lagrangelax

A photo posted by LaGrange College (@lagrangecollege) on

Lauren Johnson
Women’s basketball

Junior Lauren Johnson tied her career high of 21 points in leading the Panthers (6-6, 2-1 USA South) to a 70-47 win against Agnes Scott on Sunday. LaGrange hosts Covenant today (Friday) at 5:30 p.m. and Maryville at 6 p.m. Saturday at in USA South games.

Men’s basketball
Men’s basketball

The Panthers (7-7, 0-3 USA South) lost 88-82 at Piedmont on Sunday despite a career-high 18 points from Travis Thompson. Elijah Adedoyin also scored 18 points in the game. The team hosts Averett at 2 p.m. Saturday and Ferrum at 2 p.m. Sunday in USA South games.

The LC swim teams return to action with a dual meet at Ferrum today (Friday). This will be the first meet for the teams since competing in the SCAD Invitational on Dec. 1-3.

The annual alumni tour will be visiting five locations across Georgia and Florida this winter. The events offer alumni and friends an opportunity to share memories, hear about the science construction on the Hill from President Dan McAlexander and sign a piece of LC history that will be used in the new laboratory science building. Tour stops include:

  • Newnan, Feb. 9, 6–7:30 p.m., Something Special at Lillian Gardens, 83 Greenville St. (parking available at Knox Furniture)
  • Macon, Feb. 21, 6–7:30 p.m., 373 College St. (home of David and Kathy Reese McCollum ’81)
  • Atlanta, Feb. 28, 6–7:30 p.m., The Museum of Contemporary Art of Georgia, 75 Bennett St.
  • Jacksonville, March 16, 6–7:30 p.m., The River Club, 1 Independent Drive (34th floor of the Wells Fargo Building) and
  • Brunswick/St. Simons/Jekyll, March 17, noon, Brunswick Country Club, 4041 Darien Highway.

Guests are welcome to attend one or all of the complimentary events; however, an RSVP is requested 10 days before the event to the Office of Alumni and Community Relations, or 706-880-8244. For more information, visit

The college will be marching in Saturday’s MLK Day parade in downtown LaGrange. Those who would like to participate should meet at 10:30 a.m. Saturday in front of Turner Hall.

Don’t miss the opportunity to participate in the Vision 2020/Caswell Challenge. Everyone who makes a pledge or gift of $2,020 or more between now and Jan. 31 will have their names etched on a glass donor wall to be in featured in the new laboratory science building. For more information, contact Rebecca Davis, Director of Development, at or by calling 706-880-8257.

Dr. John Tures, Professor of Political Science, was interviewed by Allan Loudell of WDEL radio in Delaware on Jan. 5 about the political transition from Barack Obama to Donald Trump.