Congressman John Lewis – “Good Trouble” Legacy Marches On

Renee Sudderth salutes Congressman John Lewis, farewell, Photo: Courtesy of Renee Sudderth

Congressman John R. Lewis participated in many marches for the Civil Rights Movement, Human Rights and much more, but on July 17, 2020 he marched faithfully through Heaven’s gate. Lewis, “the boy from Troy” became a Minister, Civil Rights Leader, Freedom Bus Rider, U.S. Representative, a Presidential Medal Freedom recipient, and much more. He was a spiritually-anointed, beloved, caring, courageous, and strong soul who definitely made a difference in this lifetime.

One recognizes that quickly when his farewell “send-off” carried him from, Troy, Selma, Montgomery, Washington D.C. and finally back to his adoptive home, Atlanta.  

My Souvenir T-shirt (the back) – Photo Courtesy of Renee Sudderth
John Lewis – Photo Courtesy of Renee Sudderth

The route included many spiritual and emotional moments. 

Montgomery, Alabama ‘s Capitol while John Lewis Lie In State and while God shows his creativity and love- Photo courtesy of Mr. Garner

I am thankful that I was there with the A D King Foundation for the 55th Anniversary of “Bloody Sunday” (March 7, 1965) in Selma.

Renee Sudderth standing at the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama (Sunday, March 1, 2020) for it’s 55th “Bloody Sunday” Anniversary that changed history on Sunday, March 7, 1965GO VOTE Photo Courtesy of Renee Sudderth

We reflected on how John Lewis, age 25 walked across the infamous Edmund Pettus Bridge with 600 others who were beaten and tear-gased by the State Troopers because they were non-violently protesting for Blacks to have the right to vote and trying to bring equal justice. Months later, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Souvenir Calendar I purchased of John Lewis leading this “news breaking” march into history March 7, 1965 – Photo Courtesy of Renee Sudderth

Watching all the television and internet coverage, it made me feel like I was with him on his last journey. Despite, the pandemic I couldn’t bear to stay home when he was returning to Atlanta to make his final stop. I jumped in my car and there I was heading to Georgia’s State Capitol, over the bridge.

Renee Sudderth heading over a bridge to Georgia’s State Capitol to make history – Photo Courtesy of Renee Sudderth

I packed an apple just like John Lewis did 55 years ago when he was preparing to walk across that bridge because he didn’t know when he would return home.  Before I actually walked into the Capitol, where Lewis Lie In State, there were other “Lewis” activities going on outside. 

The largest card I’ve ever signed because John Lewis was larger than life – Photo Courtesy of Renee Sudderth
Renee Sudderth, Al Herring, Rev. Nathan Knight, (President of Southern Christian Leadership (SCLC) – Dekalb) and Haroun Wakil – V for VOTE – Photo Courtesy of Al [email protected]
Martin L. King III, daughter Yolanda Renee King, Renee Sudderth and Linda Cooks – Photo Courtesy of Reggie Nelson
Antioch Baptist Church North Members Hank Stewart, Reggie Nelson, Linda Cooks and Renee Sudderth – Photo Courtesy of Reggie Nelson
Congressman John Lewis Lie In State – Photo Courtesy of Renee Sudderth
What a sad moment but still thankful what John Lewis’ life represented – Photo Courtesy of Renee Sudderth

The next day was his Homegoing Service at Ebenzer Baptist Church, which the entire world was watching and paying their final respect to this gentle giant who stood so tall.

John Lewis, corner of Auburn Ave and down the street where his mentor Rev. Dr. Martin L. King, Jr. crypt is located – Photo Courtesy of Renee Sudderth

There were many in attendance from Congress, and three former Presidents of the United States (President Jimmy Carter 95- year-old absentee but there in spirit), Bill Clinton, George Bush and the 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama. He gave the eulogy which was so direct, powerful, passionate and spiritual because that’s the way Lewis lived his entire life. 

President Barack Obama gives eulogy
(Captured on TV by Renee Sudderth)
The United States Honor Guard
(Captured on TV by Renee Sudderth)

Lewis’ funeral was private, so I waited until two days later to visit his final resting place. That is when I gave him my final military salute and honor because we both served our country proudly and I was very proud of him.

Renee Sudderth standing by a great legendary man – Photo Courtesy of Renee Sudderth
John Lewis’ wife, Lillian Miles Lewis of 44 years who stood by his side in everything and credits Civil Rights Activist, Xernona Clayton for their introductionPhoto Courtesy of Renee Sudderth

For those who had the chance to be in his presence during his lifetime, it was an electrifying moment.

U.S. Congressman John Lewis proves his marching wasn’t in vain as he talks to Georgia State Representative Debra Bazemore, District 63 who said, “He always had a calm and peaceful spirit about himself” – Photo Courtesy of Debra Bazemore

When I initially met him, I couldn’t say or do much of anything because I was so emotional being in his presence. All I could do was shake his hand and say, “Thank you”. I never was able to take a photo but I was blessed to sit with deep emotions in his United States Representative’s office in Washington D.C. I was there during the 2nd Inauguration of President Obama in 2013.

Renee Sudderth sits emotionally in the historic office of Congressman John Lewis in Washington, D.C. – Photo Courtesy of Renee Sudderth

African American history is deep and emotional. John Lewis’ long journey was hard and he never gave up on fighting for causes that were right for mankind.  Even a month (June 7, 2020) before his death, his frailed body, but strong mind, made his last public appearance. He wanted to actual stand on the “Black Lives Matter” mural, painted by the current generation, on the street leading to the White House which inspired him.

Part of John Lewis’ Funeral Program

One of his famous quotes, “If you see something that is not right, not fair, not just, you have a moral obligation to do something about it”.

That’s why he felt it was all worth it when he actually lived to see an African American become President of the United States, the highest honor in the land, knowing our people were once regarded only as slaves. And to walk across that Edmund Pettus Bridge one more time with so many significant people that changed the course of history was powerful and breath-taking.

Souvenir photo of this Historical Moment of Congressman John Lewis during President Obama’s Presidency and the book marker souvenir given to us after viewing Lewis – Photo Courtesy of Renee Sudderth

Congressman John Lewis felt all the beatings, arrests, marches, integrating the buses, and the sit-in demonstrations with Rev. Dr.  Martin L. King Jr., Rev. Dr. A.D. King, Rev. Dr. Joseph Lowery, Rev. Dr. C.T. Vivian, and many others were worth the journey. 

Civil Rights Leaders: Rev. Dr. John Lewis; Rev. Dr. C.T. Vivian; Rev. Dr.  Martin L. King Jr., Rev. Dr. Joseph Lowery, large photos held by Rev. Nathan Knight (bull horn), Sir Maejorpage (pointing) and others – Photo Courtesy of Sir Maejorpage

Ironically, his friend C.T. Vivian passed earlier in the day. Lewis was lying down but when they whispered that his fellow civil rights leader friend Vivian had passed on, he closed his eyes and a few hours later he was gone. Lewis had to catch up with Vivian so they could be reunited with all the others who trotted those many dark roads together but now could sing “GLORY”. (Click on GLORY link-Kodee Williams and the Alcoa Youth Community Choir; including me – Courtesy of Teresa Williams Seard)

The back of Congressman John Lewis’ 80th Birthday Ticket Invitation I was attending but postponed due to COVID-19 in March 2020 – Photo Courtesy of Renee Sudderth
Toni Sudderth, Renee Sudderth, Ms. J, Sonya Jenkins, Pat Oalden, celebrating at Congressman John Lewis’ 75th Birthday Party in 2015 – We will make sure his legacy marches on and people continue to VOTE so his living will not be in vain – Photo Courtesy of Sonya Jenkins

Related Previous article by Renee Sudderth

44 Comments

  1. So much history in your articles Renee, you’ve done it again! How did it feel standing on Edmund Pettus Bridge down in Selma, Alabama for it’s 55th Bloody Sunday Anniversary? So long ago Martin Luther King Jr. along with many others including Mr. John Lewis changed history on that bloody day March 7, 1965. Thank you so much for keeping us informed, keeping us remembering and appreciating our history, and our leaders!

    • I thought of you often Renee as I contemplated my thoughts of the times that John Lewis had made a direct impact on my life. Years ago when he wrote his book Walking with the Wind, I was so inspired that I purchased two of his autographed books and gave one to my Mom to read. So we both now have the books as our prize possessions. The photos and your writings of John Lewis’s life and Homegoing are priceless. I’m so proud of you,”my cousin the photojournalist” and “the Boy from Troy’s” legacy.

  2. BETTYE JO COOK – August 7, 2020 – Via EMAIL – You are doing a great job with honoring our hero’s. I applaud you for all that you do to make sure they are not forgotten. Thank you for all that you do. I want to be a great writer and world traveler just like you. Have a great and bless weekend. Love you much.

  3. VALERIE NWALA – August 7, 2020 – Via FACEBOOK – A befitting honor for a man who gave his life for us!!Thank you for sharing your respects to this great American hero!! May Mr. Lewis Rest In Peace!! 🙏🏽

  4. BONNIE BRYANT – August 7, 2020 – Via FACEBOOK – A farewell salute to an iconic legend and activist John Lewis, gone but not forgotten for his valor racist injustices in black history.

  5. JEWELL ROLLEN – August 7, 2020 – Via FACEBOOK -“Trouble Good, Trouble Necessary Trouble” A symbolic Black T-Shirt reading that.

  6. RUBY MANUEL – August 7, 2020 -Via EMAIL – Thank you Renée for keeping us informed, appreciating, and remembering our leaders who made such a great impact in our history!
    Wow, they’re leaving us. Who will carry the torch?🤔

  7. Magnificent job Renee!!! I enjoyed walking down memory lane of some of Congressman Lewis greatest accomplishments. I am grateful to have met him on a few occasions and thanked him for all he does. Sorry we could not attend his Birthday celebration this year, God had other plans for him. Good trouble, good servant! RIP 🙏

  8. JERRY HALL – August 7, 2020 – Via FACEBOOK – A Very Wonderful Article Renee. Thanks for being our eyes and ears on this Fantastic Journey you took all of us on.

  9. SHERMAN MAURICE HARRIS – August 7, 2020 – Via FACEBOOK – Thanks for the TAG. It is a honor. His work will last forever.

  10. JOAN DAVIS – August 7, 2020 – Via FACEBOOK – Great Article Renee! Thank you for helping us honor our leaders. I always learn something new from all your articles. Keep up the good work!

  11. Loved this article and tribute to Congressman John Robert Lewis. His life is a testament that we are obligated to get into GOOD TROUBLE.
    He will be missed. Great job Renee

  12. NATHAN KNIGHT – August 8, 2020 – Via FACEBOOK – Congressman John Lewis is the Epitome of the American Civil Rights Foot Soldiers services for Justice, Equality, and Voter Rights.

  13. GLORIA WILLIAMS – August 8, 2020 – Via FACEBOOK – It was great and thank you for including my grandson singing Glory.

  14. MADELINE BROWN – August 2020 – Via FACEBOOK – I SALUTE You Sir … For All You Sacrificed And Upheld For Your Race And Believed In – Congressman John Lewis 😇

  15. DEANNA B. SANTO – August 8, 2020 – Via FACEBOOK – Awesome! Thank You Renee! Eternal Rest Congressman Lewis🙏🏾❤🇺🇸

  16. LUCRETIA DURHAM – August 8, 2020 – Via FACEBOOK – Thank you sweetie and thank you for your service. I love you 💕❤️😘

  17. VIRGINIA JACKSON – August 8, 2020 – FACEBOOK – Please read my friend’s article about Congressman John Lewis who is probably saying, “There goes my biggest supporter, Renee Sudderth.

  18. CHERYL IIAMS – August 8, 2020 – Via FACEBOOK – I am leaving a comment on the article which I thought was excellent. Thanks for the insight and memories. ❣️😀

  19. TONI SUDDERTH – August 8, 2020 – The article was pretty good. Lots of historical information. He was an anointed man.

  20. DOT LOVE – August 8, 2020 – Renee, I loved your article. Keep up the good work. I always love all your articles. I want to visit Atlanta and see all those sites.

  21. Georgia State Representative DEBRA BAZEMORE – August 8, 2020 – Renee, you are doing excellent work. You are so passionate about what you write. You really get in there and you be on it. Every time I talked with Congressman Lewis, he always had a calmness and peaceful spirit about himself. I am really going to miss him and I learned so much from him. The calling on his life came early, he accepted it, won his race and now he is at peace.

  22. RICKY MCNEAR – August 9, 2020 – Good Job. Keep doing what you doing!!! I be telling everybody about your adventures.

  23. ROSE BROWN – August 9, 2020 – Via FACEBOOK – Thank you for sharing. I really enjoyed reading everything. I met John Lewis at the IHOP on Ponce de Leon one day and he was a very humble man. Thank you again for sharing.

  24. KELVIN LYNN WALTON – August 8, 2020 – Via FACEBOOK – As always, excellent job Renee, beautiful tribute for such a Great Man, and Gods Love and Blessings to the Family.

  25. DEBORAH WELCH-CAMPBELL – August 9, 2020 – Via FACEBOOK – God bless you Renee and thank you for all you do 🇺🇸❤

  26. CAROLINE TATE – August 13, 2020 – Via EMAIL – Your article was definitely a road map journey of Congressman John Lewis. You done a fantastic job keeping the story short with each picture. Your amazing story was about one of the most spiritual leaders in this country. A great tribute for a phenomenal man’s farewell story. Well done Renee.

  27. MICHAEL JOYCE – August 27, 2020 – Via FACEBOOK- Renee, I enjoyed the John Lewis presentation. It was detailed; insightful; interesting and inspiring. Thanks for taking the time to share with us, along with honoring a great congressman and fellow member of our great military. You didn’t just write about it; as the great literary person that you are, you went there as a reporter, and documented this history making occasion with both past and present photos and articles that gave us a sense of being there ourselves. Thanks again for the thoughtful work. God bless!

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