By John McGowan
I first met Congressman John Lewis in the mid-1980s in Montgomery, Alabama, at the Southern Poverty Law Center. I was excited to meet him.
I introduced myself as John McGowan, Mayor of Union Springs. His immediate response was, “Are you related to Son McGowan?” It took me by surprise. I wasn’t sure who he was talking about at first.
I said, “The only Son I know is Uncle Son, who lives in Saco.” That is who he was speaking of. He informed me that his first cousin, Q Carter, married Ruby Clyde McGowan, Uncle Son’s daughter.
From that point on, we had a personal relationship.
He welcomed Union Springs and Bullock County to his congressional office in Washington DC at any time. That meant a great deal to me, knowing I had access to the White House.
His life was an inspiration to many. He was born the son of Alabama sharecroppers to become known as the conscious of the United States Congress, serving in the United States House of Representatives for over three decades.
Just goes to prove, it is not where you come from (sharecroppers) but where you are going (the United States House of Representatives.)
Humble beginnings did not stop John Lewis’ determination to improve the lives of all people.
He is a true example of the difference we can make when we live a life that respects everyone as our brother.
In 1965, it was the administration of Governor George Wallace, that resisted the initial march on the Edmund Pettis Bridge. Forty-four years later, Governor Wallace’s daughter, Peggy Wallace Kennedy, led the march along with Congressman John Lewis and others across the bridge. The initial march in 1965 prompted the passage of the Voting Rights Act, which opened polling places to black people and ended all-white governments.
My sincere condolences are with the family of John Lewis.