By Tribune Staff
NASHVILLE, TN — City leaders and residents of Troy, AL unveiled a marker on the family land of Rep. John Lewis to recognize him as the “Boy from Troy.” The event included family, friends, elected officials, and his American Baptist College schoolmate, along with other supporters and dignitaries.
“My Uncle Robert had the courage and faith that anything is possible and that we must change things that make us feel indignant,” said Jerrick Lewis.
John Lewis’s brother, Henry, shared how the Congressman’s heart was always with his family. The third of ten brothers and sisters, it was clear at an early age that he would not continue his life with farm work. He would do something different, and he did, still carrying the love of his family with him.
“My brother and I spoke nearly every day,” said Henry Lewis. “He loved his family, his hometown, and this county. His life started on this farm and that upbringing took him throughout the world.”
Among the speakers was Rev. Bernard Lafayette, Congressman Lewis’s roommate at American Baptist College. Lafayette said it was Lewis who got him involved in civil rights activities by inviting him to go to classes that taught non-violence. Eventually, Lafayette went to the classes and became a leading force with Lewis and others in civil rights activities in Nashville and beyond.
“John was determined to make a difference and gave every ounce of his energy to do just that,” said Lafayette.
Nashvillians attending the unveiling included Council Lady-at-Large Zulfat Suara, Council Lady Joy Styles, Woolworth Theatre co-owner Joe Bravo, and Phyllis Qualls from American Baptist College.
“It was surreal being at the home and farm where Congressman John Lewis was reared and where his skills as a preacher were first cultivated,” said Suara. “It’s so beautiful that visitors from far and wide, and for generations to come, will learn about how the ‘Boy from Troy’ changed the world. What a legacy and what an inspiration!”
Added Styles, “It was truly an honor to be present for the unveiling of the marker. It was a moving tribute to everything that he fought for and the family that made him the champion he was.”
Bravo, who has partnered with Representative Lewis’s nephew Jerrick, said, “I was determined to be a part of this event.”
This day in Troy honoring Rep Lewis was yet another milestone that speaks of the work he did throughout his life. Troy University, the school that denied entrance to Lewis after he graduated from high school, now bears his name on the School of Business, located in the middle of the campus. In downtown Nashville, a large portion of Fifth Avenue North, which passes the Woolworth’s where the city’s historic sit-ins took place, was named in his honor in 2021. That same year, a mural of Lewis and organizations he was associated with, such as American Baptist College and Fisk University, was dedicated nearby. Nashville has held a celebration in Lewis’s honor for the past two years, which has included scholarship presentations to both American Baptist College and Fisk University students.