Services were held recently for Lillian Miles Lewis, wife of Rep. John Lewis, who died on New Years Eve. She was 73.
According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, it was after taking a job as a librarian at Atlanta University (now Clark Atlanta University) that she met her husband at a 1967 New Year’s Eve party at the home of television personality and civil rights activist Xernona Clayton.
The two were married less than a year later and had a partnership that spanned 44 years.
“I was attracted to him before I knew him,” Mrs. Lewis said “Every day and every night on the news was something about what was happening in the Civil Rights Movement, so I felt like I knew him.”
As pointed out by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Rep. Lewis credited Lillian with being somewhat of a political adviser. In his memoir, “Walking With the Wind,” Lewis recalled how his wife helped him decide to run for Congress in 1977–a race he lost to Wyche Fowler–and became his chief adviser.
“She had always been very involved in politics, much more than I. 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. She 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,” Lewis wrote.
Aside from playing a role in her husband’s career, Mrs. Lewis developed a lifelong interest in Africa when she taught in a student program in Nigeria in 1960, returning later as a Peace Corps volunteer to teach for two years in Yaba, Nigeria.
Lillian Lewis is survived by her husband Rep. John Lewis, and her son John-Miles Lewis.