Before his death in July 2020, John Lewis wrote touching tributes to the people who impacted him the most — including his wife, Lillian Miles Lewis, and his mentor, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
“She was warm and giving, she was a beautiful mother—and I miss her,” Lewis wrote of his wife, who died in December 2012. The longtime congressman’s book, Carry On: Reflections for a New Generation, published posthumously last week.
As much as Lewis treasured their time together, he admits that a romantic relationship wasn’t always his priority.
“For the early part of my life, I was married to the movement, and I didn’t have time to take my personal life into consideration,” Lewis wrote of his role as a leader in the civil rights movement that resulted in his name appearing in history books and in the minds of Black Lives Matter activists, many of whom consider him an inspiration and a role model.
He added, “We were too busy trying to survive.”
During the 1960s, Lewis was arrested and beaten numerous times as he practiced nonviolent protest to end segregation. In 1967, Lewis met Lillian Miles, a librarian and teacher, and married her the next year. She became one of his closest political advisors.
Citing “unconditional love” as the key to a long-lasting marriage, Lewis explains that, “[Lillian] encouraged me to run for Congress in 1977, which I did but lost. And she was there to comfort me.”
He continued, “She was integral to my life in every way. She made me laugh… And she was the life of a party. She was even good-natured about driving me around all those years when I didn’t have my license!”
Nine years before Lewis met his wife, the 18-year-old heard Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the minister and civil rights leader, speak on the radio. Lewis was so moved that he wrote Dr. King a letter.
“I didn’t let my mother, father or teachers know that I had written him. And he wrote me back and invited me to join him in Alabama,” wrote Lewis, who hailed from Troy, Ala.
Click here to read more.
SOURCE: PEOPLE, Sam Gillette