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Wife of Ga. Congressman John Lewis dies
Created on Friday, 04 January 2013 10:18 Last Updated on Friday, 04 January 2013 10:18 Published on Friday, 04 January 2013 10:18 Written by Associated Press Hits: 1458
Lillian Lewis, the wife of Congressman John Lewis, passed away on Dec. 31, 2012.
by Phillip Lucas
Associated Press Writer
ATLANTA (AP) — Lillian Miles Lewis, wife of Democratic U.S. Rep. John Lewis, died Monday morning in Atlanta according to Brenda Jones, a spokeswoman for the congressman. She was 73.
Information on her cause of death was not immediately available.
Xernona Clayton, CEO of the Trumpet Awards Foundation Inc. — which recognizes the accomplishments of African Americans — considered Lillian Lewis her best friend and said she recently struggled with a cold. Lewis was hospitalized Sunday night because of a persistent cough, she said.
Clayton recalled meeting Lewis — then Lillian Miles — shortly after the two moved to Atlanta from Los Angeles in 1963. The women shared a passion for the arts and civil rights, and bonded over the work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
"She knew every word of every speech that he made," Clayton said, "I was impressed with her intellect; she was well traveled. She lived in Europe and Africa and was knowledgeable about the world. She knew about art, about literature. She was invigorating to be around."
Lewis moved to the city to take a job at Atlanta University — now known as Clark Atlanta University — and was a member of the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church, Clayton said. She introduced Lillian to John Lewis at a New Year's Eve dinner party in 1967 and the two were married in 1968. The two have a son, John Miles.
"I just marvel in the fact that I had something at all to do with putting two people together who had a genuine love for each other," Clayton said. "Somehow I just knew that they would gel because she was soft-spoken, she was kind, she was gentle," Clayton said, adding that Lewis was also clever and quietly assertive.
"She just had such a soft-spoken way of getting back at people," Clayton said with a laugh, "You could see the egg on the person's face."
Rep. Lewis was traveling from Washington, D.C. to Atlanta Monday night, Jones said. He represents Georgia's fifth congressional district, which spans Atlanta and portions of surrounding suburbs. Lewis has served in Congress since 1986.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) used Twitter to convey her condolences, calling Lillian Lewis "a smart and caring woman" and "a champion for justice."
Funeral services will be held at 11:00 a.m. on Monday January 7, at Ebenezer Baptist Church, 407 Auburn Avenue, Atlanta, 30312. Rep. Lewis and his wife were married in the church in 1968.
Those who wish to send flowers are encouraged to do so and until Sunday January 6, flowers may be sent to the Willie A. Watkins Funeral Home, 1003 Ralph David Abernathy Boulevard, SW, Atlanta, GA 30310, 404-758-1731. After Sunday, flowers should be sent directly to Ebenezer Baptist Church.
Rep. John Lewis' office has said that condolences may be expressed "in any form an individual may desire. "
In lieu of flowers, donations are being accepted by the American Kidney Fund on behalf of Mrs. Lewis. They should be made payable to the American Kidney Fund and sent by mail to the American Kidney Fund Headquarters, 11921 Rockville Pike, Suite 300, Rockville, MD 20852. In all correspondence and as a memo on the donation itself, please indicate that the funds are a Memorial Donation for Mrs. Lillian Miles Lewis to benefit the AKF office in the state of Georgia.
Online donations can also be accepted at this link http://www.kidneyfund.org/give-now/gifts-in-memory/ , and when prompted, online donors should note the funds are made in memorial to Mrs. Lillian Miles Lewis.
In his memoir, "Walking With the Wind," Lewis recalled how his wife helped him decide to run for Congress 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.
Written condolences may be sent to Rep. John Lewis and his son, John Miles Lewis at 2015 Wallace Road, Atlanta, Georgia 30331.
The Atlanta Daily World contributed to this story.
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