Remembering MLK Jr's Visit to St. Joe's 50 Years Ago, Civil Rights Pioneer John Lewis

Steve Tawa
April 16, 2018 - 1:17 pm
John Lewis

Photo Credit: Steve Tawa


PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) -- Civil Rights leader John Lewis visited St. Joseph's University on Monday to talk about the life and legacy of his friend and mentor, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., reflecting on Dr. King's visit to the City Avenue campus fifty years ago.

John Lewis was with Dr. King every step of the way during the Civil Rights movement of the 1960's.

"This man taught us to stand up," Lewis said, "to speak up and speak out."

By his count, Lewis has been arrested more than 40 times for his advocacy of non-violent protests, even five times as a member of Congress, representing Georgia since 1986. 

"My philosophy is very simple," he said. "When you see something that is not right, not fair, not just, you have a moral obligation to stand up, say something, do something, and not be quiet."

Lewis says sometimes it's necessary to "get in the way."

"What I call 'good trouble,' necessary trouble," he said. "And I've been getting in trouble ever since."

The son of sharecroppers in rural Alabama, he originally wanted to become a minister, and his early flock were chickens.

"Some of these chickens would bow their heads, some would shake, but they never quite said Amen," Lewis joked. "But I'm convinced that some of those chickens that I preached to in the 40's and 50's tended to listen to me much better than some of my colleagues today in Congress. As a matter of fact, those chickens were more productive. At least they produced eggs."

At the event, St. Joseph's University President Mark Reed awarded Congressman Lewis the school's President's Medal for Excellence. His numerous awards and recognition include the President's Medal of Freedom from President Obama in 2011. Lewis remains the only person to receive the John F. Kennedy "Profile in Courage" award for Lifetime Achievement.