Wife of Congressman John Lewis Laid to Rest

This story was published in 2013. See the funeral for Rep. John Lewis here >>

During a funeral service helL at Ebenezer Baptist Church Monday, Members of Congress, civil rights leaders and local elected officials paid their respects to the wife of Congressman John Lewis.

Lillian Miles Lewis was remembered in song, and by those who knew her best like Christine King Farris, the sister of Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.

“For me, Lillian will always symbolize the important contributions women made in our freedom movement.”

Former Congressman and U.S. Ambassador Andrew Young told Congressman Lewis that he and Lillian were present during several key moments of his life. He says a letter they wrote led to his entering the race for congress in 1970 and both were present during a trip that he says laid the groundwork for the peaceful transition of South Africa to majority rule.

“Throughout your life and throughout the partnership that you Lillian have, you have helped to shape our world far more than anyone can imagine.”

And few knew her as well as civil rights activist and TV host Zernona Clayton.

“We laughed. We cried. We prayed together. We shopped. We marched for civil rights.”

Clayton helped introduce Lillian to Congressman Lewis at a New Year’s Eve Party she held in 1967, during the height of the civil rights movement.

“Well I pushed my plan, and the relationship blossomed.”

Nearly a year later the two were married. And Clayton says Lillian was fiercely loyal and devoted to Lewis and chose to remain behind the scenes.

“She immersed herself deeply into everything he wanted to do. She gave her talent, her energy, her counsel and her fundraising ability to meet John’s needs. … Lillian was a work horse not a show horse.”

Lillian Miles Lewis died at the age of 73 after suffering longtime health issues on New Year’s Eve. It was 45 years to the day that she met Lewis.

Lillian earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Social Studies with a minor in English from what is now California State College at Los Angeles and a Master’s degree in Library Sciences from the University of Southern California. She traveled to Nigeria in college and while serving as a volunteer teacher in the Peace Corps. She also worked as a librarian and Director of Special Collections for Atlanta University and Associate Director of the Institute for International Affairs and Development. She is survived by her husband and her son, John Miles Lewis.

Those attending the service include: U.S. Congressman Hank Johnson, U.S. House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, Reverend Jesse Jackson, U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, Atlanta Mayor and the daughter of the late President Lyndon Baines Johnson, Lynda Bird Johnson Robb.