Close friend of John Lewis shares memories from over the years

Long-time friend remembers John Lewis

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - A man known for getting into “Good Trouble”, John Lewis was arrested more than 40 times during the height of the Civil Rights Movement.

Congressman Lewis is mentioned many times at the National Civil Rights Museum.

A close friend of Lewis’ tells WMC Action News 5 Lewis was proud of the progress he saw over the years here in Bluff City.

In Washington DC, the flags at Capitol Hill and the White House were lowered to half-mast as the country remembers a champion for racial equality, Lewis, gone at the age of 80 after a battle with pancreatic cancer.

John Lewis' special connection to Memphis

“John was a very dependable friend. He was honest, he was sincere,” said Love Collins, vice chancellor for Development and Alumni Affairs the at University of Tennessee Health Science Center.

But in 1986, Collins was the campaign manager for a freedom rider in his very first Congressional election, a man named John Lewis.

Collins was the first person to tell Lewis he won the election after the initial results looked bleak.

Late that night, a celebratory Lewis lead his followers on a joyful march through Atlanta streets with Collins by his side.

“I stuck my hand out and said congratulations congressman,” said Collins. “And he looked at me and he said, no. And I said, yes. And he said oh my god. And I said, you’re in! And he said we let’s do it!”

Lewis remained the representative for Georgia’s fifth district for more than 30 years until his passing Friday.

During that time, Collins says he and Lewis remained close.

When Lewis, a colleague of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, visited Memphis, like when he participated in the ceremonies for MLK50, Collins says he marveled at the progress the city had made over the decades.

“He was very much aware of how Memphis is today relative to how it was back in the middle 1960s,” said Collins. “And so he said numerous times that Martin would be very pleased to see the progress that has been achieved by our community.”

Collins says he's devastated by his friend's death and mourns the loss of a tremendous leader for our country.

“What bothers me or hits me most is what he would have been able to do if he lived even longer,” said Collins.

The National Civil Rights Museum issued a statement tonight on the passing of Congressman Lewis that reads in part:

“His passion for equal rights never waned. We celebrate his life dedicated to social justice and fairness. We take a long pause to pay tribute to what he’s done for us. We will never forget.”

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