Awarded: April 2000
(b. Feb. 21, 1940)
John Lewis developed an unwavering commitment to the Civil Rights Movement at a young age. As a student, he organized sit-ins at segregated lunch counters in Nashville, Tenn. He volunteered for the Freedom Rides, organized to challenge segregation at interstate bus terminals, and endured severe beatings because of his involvement. Lewis was the chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, which he helped form and, which was responsible for the sit?ins and other activities of students in the civil rights struggle. He was recognized as one of the “Big Six” leaders of the Movement. In 1977 he was appointed by President Carter to direct the volunteers of ACTION, the federal volunteer agency. In 1986 he ran for Congress and was elected to Georgia’s Fifth District. In December 1998, he received the Eleanor Roosevelt Award for Human Rights.