NASHVILLE, TN — The Metro council voted on November 5 to rename Fifth Avenue from Jefferson Street (Northside), through Broadway/Downtown to Nashville City Cemetery (Southside) as Rep. John Lewis Way.
While a student at the American Baptist Theological Seminary and later Fisk Univerity, John Lewis began his lifelong crusade for democracy and Civil Rights. He was a leader in the historic lunch counter sit-ins that led to Nashville becoming the first Southern city to start the desegregation of public places. While a student, Lewis attended nonviolence workshops held at Clark Memorial United Methodist Church by the Rev. James Lawson and Rev. Kelly Miller Smith Sr. There, Lewis and other students became dedicated adherents to Gandhi’s discipline and philosophy of nonviolence, which he practiced for the rest of his life. In 1961, Lewis represented the Nashville group of the burgeoning civil rights movement, as one of the 13 original “Freedom Riders.” He was also instrumental in organizing bus boycotts and other nonviolent protests to support voting rights and racial equality.
The John Lewis Way committee members included – Greg Bailey, Susan Huggins, Sam Reed, Senator Brenda Gilmore, Hon Vivian Wilhoite, Marie Sueing, Rita McDonald, Tim Walker, Tom Turner, and deputy mayor Brenda Haywood.
The renaming was a complete community effort with letters of support from the American Baptist College, Fisk University, RYMAN, Country Music Hall of Fame, and Giarratana, LLC.
The sponsor of this historic bill was Zulfat Suara and co-sponsors included Vice Mayor Jim Shulman, council members Freddie O’Connell and Colby Sledge, the Minority Caucus, the LGBTQ Caucus, and several metro offices and staff.