John Lewis
John Lewis
Walking With the Wind:  A Memoir of the Movement
ISBN: 0684810654
Walking With the Wind: A Memoir of the Movement
Forty years ago, a teenaged boy named John Lewis stepped off a cotton farm in Alabama and into the epicenter of the struggle for civil rights in America. The ideals of nonviolence which guided that critical time of American history established him as one of the movement's most charismatic and courageous leaders.

In Walking with the Wind, John Lewis recounts his life with the fierce simplicity for which he is known, both in public and private. It began in rural poverty but within the bosom of a loving and resilient family. It has ranged across almost every battlefield in the most dramatic struggles for racial justice—from Selma to Montgomery to Birmingham and beyond.

Lewis's leadership of the Nashville Movement—a student-led effort to desegregate the city of Nashville using sit-in techniques based on the teachings of Gandhi—established him as one of the movement's defining figures and set the tone for the major civil rights campaigns of the 1960s, from the Freedom Rides of 1961, during which Lewis was repeatedly brutally beaten and imprisoned; to the 1963 March on Washington, where his fiery speech thrust him into the national spotlight; to his selection as the national chairman of SNCC (the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee), which he helped shape and guide; to the 1965 "Bloody Sunday" attack at Selma, where Lewis suffered a fractured skull during a tear gas attack by Alabama state troopers. Lewis, as a participant in the movement, was to be, and remains, utterly true to his boyhood hero, Martin Luther King Jr., as a believer in the philosophy and discipline of nonviolent social action.

In 1966, Lewis was ousted as SNCC chairman by Stokely Carmichael, who represented the emerging militant "Black Power" direction of the movement. Two years later, Lewis joined Robert Kennedy in his 1968 campaign for the presidency. He was with Kennedy moments before he was assassinated.

Lewis, committed to the principles of nonviolence, spent the next decade organizing and registering four million voters in the South. In 1986, he sought a United States congressional seat in a campaign against his old friend, comrade, and former SNCC colleague Julian Bond. Lewis won the seat in a great upset and serves in Congress to this day.

John Lewis tells his story of struggle in the civil rights movement, of comradeship in that community, of its battles and triumphs, and of his own persevering faith with great charm, candor, and humor.
—from the publisher's website

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TRANSCRIPT
Walking With the Wind: A Memoir of the Movement
Program Air Date: July 12, 1998

BRIAN LAMB, HOST: John Lewis, where did you get the title of your book, "Walking With the Wind"?
Representative JOHN LEWIS (Author, "Walking With the Wind: A Memoir of the Movement"): Well, I grew up in southeast Alabama on a farm in an area called Carter's Quarters, near Pike--in the heart of Pike County, really, near a little place called Troy. And one day a--a storm came up--a very bad storm came up, and I was in this old tin-roof house and the wind started blowing. And my aunt suggested that we all clasp hands--just hold hands. And we started walking with the wind. And one part of the house would lift up and we'd try to hold it down with our tiny little bo--bodies--my first cousins and my aunt. And the other side would blow and try to lift up, and we would move to that side. And in America, during the past few years, the wind been blowing. And I think I've been walking with the wind, trying to hold the American house together, keep it from being divided, keep it from coming apart.
LAMB: In the movement--and you call it the movement. Define that.
Rep. LEWIS: The movement is the civil rights movement. The modern-day movement started in--I guess in 1955 when Rosa Parks took a seat on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama, and refused to--to get up a--and give her seat to a white gentleman. She was arrested and went to jail. And Martin Luther King Jr. emerged as a--as a leader.

I remember that week so well when the bus boycott started. I was 15 years old, in the 10th grade. And what Martin Luther King Jr. and the people in Montgomery did inspired me to find a way to get involved in the civil rights movement. It--it gave me a way out. It--it taught me how to stand up to segregation and racial discrimination. And I wanted to meet Dr. King.

And a few years later I--I wrote Dr. King a letter, when I had finished high school, and he wrote me back. I told him I wanted to attend Troy State College. It was nine miles from my home. And Troy State College was a state-supported school; didn't admit black students. Dr. King wrote me back and invited me to come to Montgomery. In the meantime, I'd been accepted at a little school in Nashville.

Well, when I was home for spring break, my father drove me to the Greyhound bus station. I boarded a bus and traveled from Troy to Montgomery. And a young, black lawyer who had been a lawyer for Rosa Parks and Dr. King met me at the Greyhound bus station and drove me to the F--the First Baptist Church in Montgomery that was pastored by Reverend Abernathy and ushered me into the pastor's study into the office of the church and introduced me to Martin Luther King Jr. And that was my entrance into the civil rights movement.
LAMB: Now at that stage, how old were you?
Rep. LEWIS: At that time, I was 18 years old.
LAMB: And how old was Dr. King?
Rep. LEWIS: Dr. King was only 11 years older at the time. He was 11 years older.
LAMB: Twenty-nine.
Rep. LEWIS: Twenty-nine.
LAMB: And what kind of an image did he have for you then?
Rep. LEWIS: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had already emerged as this unbelievable national figure. He was my hero. He was an inspiration. He was, in a sense, larger than life. I was deeply inspired by this man. This one young man using the philosophy and the discipline of non-violence, using the emotionalism within the black church as an instrument, as a vehicle to a freedom was so inspiring. But when I first met him I was so scared, I was so nervous, really, to be standing in the presence of Martin Luther King Jr. And when he said to me--he said, `John--are you John Lewis, the boy from Troy?' And I said, `Yes, I'm John Robert Lewis.' I gave my whole name. And from that moment on, we hit it off very well.
LAMB: Where was this picture taken?
Rep. LEWIS: This picture was taken in Nashville in 1962, standing at a restaurant. On the other side were people--members of the Klan standing around. And I was trying to get into this restaurant to engage in a sit-in.
LAMB: I want to jump way ahead just for a moment and ask you how many times you were physically injured in the process of the movement, and what was the worst?
Rep. LEWIS: During the height of the movement, I was literally beaten two times. The Freedom Rides in May of 1961 at the Greyhound bus station in Montgomery, where a group of young Freedom Riders, black and white, tried to desegregate transportation facilities throughout the South. I was hit in the head with a wooden crate and left lying, bleeding, unconscious, at the Greyhound bus station.
LAMB: Who hit you? Do you know?
Rep. LEWIS: A member of a mob--a mob that grew to several hundred met us at the Greyhound bus station, when we had traveled from Montgomery--from Birmingham, rather, to Montgomery. And this mob just came out of nowhere and started beating members of the press. And then after they beat members of the press, they took their pencils and pads and cameras. Then they turn on the Freedom Riders. It was an interracial group. And they just beat us until a man came and fired a gun. It was the public safety director for the state of Alabama, a man by the name of Floyd Mann. He fired a gun straight in the air and said, `There will be no killing here today. There will be no killing here today.' And the mob dispersed. And that was a w--probably one of the worst beatings.

But the n--the next one occurred on March 7th, 1965, when we attempted to march from Selma to Montgomery to dramatize to the nation that people wanted the right to register and vote. And I was one of the leaders of that effort. We walked through the streets of Selma in an orderly, peaceful, non-violent fashion. It was a silent march; no one saying a word. We got to the apex of the bridge crossing the Alabama River. We saw a sea of blue Alabama state troopers. And we continued to walk.

We came within hearing distance of the state troopers, and a man identified himself and said, `I'm Major John Clough of the Alabama state troopers. This is an unlawful march, and it will not be allowed to continue. I give you three minutes to disperse and return to your church.' We continued to walk. And about a minute and a half, Major John Clough said, `Troopers, advance.' You saw these men putting on their gas masks, and they came toward us, beating us with night sticks, bullwhips, using tear gas and that Sunday became known as Bloody Sunday. I had a concussion and was hospitalized on that day.
LAMB: You say in the book that you've been back to see the mayor of Selma, who's still the mayor today?
Rep. LEWIS: Yeah, I have been back to see the mayor of Selma.
LAMB: White man?
Rep. LEWIS: He's a white man. He--he was the mayor--his name is John Smitherman--Joe Smitherman, rather. He was the mayor in 1965, and he's still the mayor today. I--in 1965, 33 years ago, only 2.1 percent of blacks of voting age were registered to vote in--in Selma. It didn't have any black elected officials. There was a tremendous amount of fear in--in Selma because you not only had Mayor Smitherman, but you had the sheriff by the name of Jim Clough. And the--and the sheriff was so mean to people, to whites and black. This guy wore a night stick on one side, a gun on the other side and he carried an electric cattle prodder in his hand. And he didn't use it on cows; he used it on people. So there was terror and there was fear in--in--in Selma, but I've been back there an--to visit on several occasions.
LAMB: But I--I--I think you said that the mayor has either apologized or admitted that he was wrong.
Rep. LEWIS: This mayor today has apologized and said he was on the wrong side. He now considers many of us who were involved in the--in the movement during those days as his friends. And he's saying now that if he were in the same position that we were in back in 1965, he would have been out there doing the same thing. He would have been out leading the march for the right to vote. He's given me the key to the city of Selma and made me an honorary citizen of Selma. But back in 1965, he called me an outside agitator.
LAMB: What made you want to do the book?
Rep. LEWIS: I wanted to--to d--to write this book--I wanted to do this book to demonstrate to young people and to people not so young that when people come together, believing in something, with a sense of faith and a sense of hope, that they can make the impossible become possible; that this is a story of--of a people trying to make America better, trying to hold the American house together. It--it is my story, but it is also the story of countless and nameless individuals.
LAMB: When did you first--how did it happen? Who--who s--who started this process of the book?
Rep. LEWIS: Well, several of my friends have said to me over the years, `You need to tell your story. You--you need to write it down.' And young people--elementary school students come to my office in Washington, in Atlanta, and I go around to student groups in Georgia and all ov--around the country and they say, `Do you have a book? Where can we read more?'

And, so in a sense, it--it's been the people who have suggested that I put it down, put it on paper so we can read it, so we can have it, we can hold it. And it's been very liberating. It--it--it--it free you. It--it's out there now. And I feel very--I feel free. I feel liberated that I've been able to--to write this book.

It's like getting arrested the first time. When I got arrested the first time back in 1960, I had been told over and over again, `Don't get in trouble. Don't go to jail. Don't break the law.' That's what my grandfather and my great-grandfather, my mother, my father told me. It was--it was not the thing to do. But when I was arrested and went to jail the first time, I felt free. I felt liberated. And so writing this book is another liberating experience.
LAMB: Who's Michael D'Orso?
Rep. LEWIS: Michael D'Orso is a free-lance writer l--living in the state of Virginia. He's written several great books. He did "Rosewood," the story of the town in Florida that was burned out by whites. He w--authored several other books. And I didn't know Michael. I knew of his work. But in writing this book, we became friends, but we came--became more than friends; we became like brothers, really.
LAMB: How did you do it?
Rep. LEWIS: We spent a tremendous amount of time together. He came to Atlanta, visiting with me; spent time and days and days in Atlanta. We went home--to my home in--in Alabama and spent time with my mother, my sisters and my brothers; went back to the little place where I was born. The house is not there anymore, but the--the pine trees--we walked through the--the trees, through the--the woods, the dirt road that I played on, and--and--and he got a feel for it. We traveled back to Montgomery, to Selma, to Birmingham. We went to Nashville. And he spent time with me in Washington. We just became each other, really. As I su--suggested, we became brothers. I think he learned more about me than he ever wanted to know.
LAMB: Did he record you?
Rep. LEWIS: He recorded a--a g--a great deal. He used a tape recorder. But at the same time, we would just be having a meal, and--and he would get his pad, get his rec--tape recorder out and--and get the essence of what I said.
LAMB: L--let's briefly go over the different locations that--where you lived in your life. Talk about your mother and father, who you dedicate the book to, and--and mayb--is your mom still alive?
Rep. LEWIS: My mother's still alive. My mother is almost 84 years old.
LAMB: And your brother lives across the street from her in a trailer?
Rep. LEWIS: My older brother live directly across the street from--from my mother, and then two other brothers live nearby, on this land. See, in--in 1944, when I was four years old--and I do remember when I was four--I remember so well my father, who had been a sharecropper, a tenant farmer, had saved $300, and with the $300, he bought 110 acres of land. And I remember so well when we moved to this particular place where w--my mother and brothers still live today. My father and mother worked very, very hard. I have six brothers and--and three sisters.
LAMB: But your brother Edward is deaf?
Rep. LEWIS: My brother Edward is deaf, but he's--he's very independent, very smart. He look out for my mother; literally take care of her. She's in good health. But he has really been sort of a--the doer and very independent, kept out--he's two years older than I am.
LAMB: How long did you live in Pike County?
Rep. LEWIS: I lived in Pike County until I left to go to school in May of--well, until 1957. I wa--I was 17 years old. But I went back home almost every summer until I got involved in the civil rights movement.
LAMB: And you went to school in Nashville?
Rep. LEWIS: I went to school in Nashville. I traveled by Greyhound bus. Is--in September, 1957, I was 17 years old when I left Pike County. I had an uncle who saw that I wanted to get an education. I was the first one in my family to go to college. And this uncle bought me a foot locker, gave me a $100 bill. I left with this $100 bill and this foot locker, going to live in the city of Nashville.
LAMB: What school?
Rep. LEWIS: A little school called American Baptist Theological Seminary, the college of the Bible. I was studying to become a minister. And so it was a big city. It was--it was the--the biggest place I ever lived. I had my own bed for the first time, had my own room for the first time 'cause as a child, six brothers and three sisters, I had to share a bed with my brothers with many of us in the same room. But going off to school, I had--it was a s--degree of independence. I was on my own. And I think I grew up overnight.
LAMB: Was it an integrated school?
Rep. LEWIS: We had, at the school, white professors but no white students; white administrators, white staff people, but no white students.
LAMB: In 1957, or even before that, what could blacks not do that whites could do in the South?
Rep. LEWIS: I--in 1957, the South was still a very segregated place. I saw--when I traveled to Montgomery or to Birmingham or to Nashville or to Atlanta--I saw the signs that said, `White Men,' `Colored Men,' `White Women,' `Colored Women,' `White Waiting,' `Colored Waiting.' Segregation was the order of the day. Y--you had dual--you had dual waiting rooms, rest room facilities. And there was a tremendous amount of fear in the South during--during those years.

This is the period of Little Rock Central High. This is after the Montgomery bus boycott. Y--you couldn't go into a store and buy something like a--a book or--or buy clothing and then go to the lunch counter or go to a restaurant. You couldn't go into some of the drugstores and--and--and then get a prescription filled and--and--and buy toothpaste or s--or soap or something and then try to take a seat at a lunch counter. You would be arrested. You would be jailed. You couldn't just--you would be denied service.
LAMB: How about motels?
Rep. LEWIS: It was almost impossible for black people to find a place to stay in a motel or a hotel. The first time--the very first time that I left the rural South, I left with this uncle of mine and his wife, my aunt. I was 11 years old in 1951. We were traveling by car from Alabama--from Troy, Alabama, to Buffalo, where two of my brothers--two of my mother's brothers lived. And my mother prepared food--cooked all type of food because there was no--there was not a place for us to stay. She prepared fried chicken, cakes and pies, sandwiches that we--there was not anyplace for us to eat as we traveled through Alabama, through Tennessee, through Kentucky.
LAMB: And in this picture, you're 11?
Rep. LEWIS: I'm 11 years old there in--i--in 1951. During those years, I--I had all of my hair and I was a few pounds lighter.
LAMB: As you went north to Buffalo, what changes occurred?
Rep. LEWIS: Well, as you t--crossed the state line and--and left Tennessee and Kentucky and--and--Ohio was different. You could go and use any rest room facility. You could get something to eat in a restaurant at a lunch counter. And when I went to Buffalo, I saw black people and white people living side by side, eating in the restaurants and lunch counters in the department stores. So that--that was an education for me.
LAMB: In the famous 1963 March in f--on Washington and the speeches that were delivered in front of the Lincoln Memorial, you were there and you say it was a controversial speech?
Rep. LEWIS: I was there. I had prepared a speech. I tried to prepare a speech that represented the feeling, the attitude of the people in the organization that I represented, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, and the people that we were working with all across the South.

See, the original idea of the March on Washington was not to support a particular piece of civil rights legislation, but it was a--a march for jobs and freedom. And President Kennedy had proposed a piece of legislation that said if you had a six- or eight--sixth-grade education, you should be considered a literate and you should be able to register to vote. And those of us in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee felt that it was too little. That was just--that was--didn't go far enough. We felt that the only qualification for being able to register to vote in the South should be that of age and residence.

So in that March on Washington speech, I said, `One man, one vote is the African cry. It is ours, too. It must be ours.' And I went on to say in the speech that there was not anything in that proposed legislation that would protect people involved in peaceful, non-violent protest. And I tried to suggest that the party of Kennedy was the party of Eastland. This was a reference to Senator Eastland, who was the chair of the Judiciary Committee from the state o--of Mississippi. And sort of said the party of Rockefeller was the party of Goldwater. `Where is our political party?'

And the speech was a--a strong speech, and some people thought it was too strong. But when I look back on it, it was a very mild, and there's no--there was not anything radical about the speech.
LAMB: As we are looking at other photographs--you were 23 when you gave that speech, and here you are in the Oval Office.
Rep. LEWIS: I was 23 years old on--on that day, August 28, 1963, when I delivered the speech at the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. And after the speech and Dr. King's speech and other speakers, we left the Lincoln Memorial and went to the White House and had a meeting with President Kennedy. That was my last time seeing President Kennedy alive. He invited us all in, and we had tea and cookies and orange juice with him. And he stood and congratulated each one of us. It was a very--I think he was very, very pleased that the march went--went off so well.
LAMB: How'd you get into that meeting? You were 23. The rest of those men in that group were quite a bit older.
Rep. LEWIS: At the time, I was the chair of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, and I was their youngest chair. And it would have been very difficult to sort of keep me from being there, so President Kennedy had invited me to come to an early meeting back in June of 1963, when the v--idea of the march first came up, and so I was one of the speakers and I was invited to come back there.

The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee that I chaired at the time was very involved. These were young people, black and white young people, working all across the South, some of the bravest and courageous young men and women. They were literally putting their bodies on the line.
LAMB: What was SNCC?
Rep. LEWIS: SNCC was a--a--a federation, a--a coalition of--of student groups. We called ourselves a circle of trust, a band of brothers and sisters. We were young people that were willing to go in places where others were not willing to go or didn't want to go.
LAMB: How integrated was it?
Rep. LEWIS: It was very integrated. It w--you know, I used to think during those early years of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee that the only real and true integration that existed in America at that time was within the movement itself. I--it was very integrated. It was the essence of what Martin Luther King Jr. would call the beloved community on interracial democracy.

W--we didn't think about race a--and color during those early--early yea--these were people, black and white, that were willing to put their bodies on the line and go to jail together. And, you know, some of the young people died together. During the Mississippi summer project in 1964, three young men--Andy Goodman, Michael Schwerner and James Chaney--were working trying to get people to register to vote. They went out to investigate the burning of a black church that was being used for a voter registration workshop. These three young men were arrested, taken to jail--this is in June of 1964--taken out of jail later that night, beaten, shot and killed.

And--and when someone is struggling and going to jail with you, dying with you, you don't think about race. You forget about race. And that was what was so beautiful about those--those days, when things were so simple, during the days that I served as chair of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee from 1963 to June of 1966.
LAMB: Who were the other folks that we would recognize who you were around in those days?
Rep. LEWIS: Well, there were individuals like Julian Bond, who was the communication director for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee; James Foreman, who was executive secretary; and a young man named Bob Moses. And then there was Stokely Carmichael, who succeeded me as chair of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.

And wh--one of the issues that emerged during the late '65, early '66, when there were feeling that some of us was too non-violent, that we were too willing to be part of an interracial coalition, that we were not aggressive enough against President Johnson; we were not standing up to Martin Luther King Jr.--suggested that there should be a change. And I will never forget, in May of '66, I had been re-elected chair of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. The election was challenged. And Stokely--I was de-elected and Stokely was elected chair of SNCC.
LAMB: Go back over those names again. Let's start with Julian Bond. Where is he today?
Rep. LEWIS: Julian Bond i--is a professor at--at American University and the University of Virginia. He served many years in the Georgia state Legislature, in the House and in the Senate. Bob Moses a--is teaching algebra in Cambridge, and he's been going throughout the country trying to get inner-city students to--to learn algebra.
LAMB: And you said that he changed his name in the middle of all of this.
Rep. LEWIS: He ch--during the height of the movement, because he didn't want to be known, he didn't want to emerge as a leader. And he changed his name from Moses. And...
LAMB: To Paris.
Rep. LEWIS: To--to Paris. To Bob Paris. Paris b--i--is his middle name, and so he just wanted to be called Bob Paris and not Bob Moses. And he went off to Africa and spent several years in Africa, and then he came back and finished his PhD at--at Harvard and then started teaching algebra.
LAMB: Now Julian Bond you write about a lot in here. He went on to be now the chairman of the NAACP.
Rep. LEWIS: Julian is the chair of the NAACP. He was very, very active. He did an unbelievable job as the communication director for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.
LAMB: But you two ended up having a--a little bit of a problem when you ran--both ran for Congress for the same seat.
Rep. LEWIS: Well, back in 1986, there was a--an open seat: Georgia 5th Congressional District. And we both wanted to go to Congress. And I remember very well back in October of 1985 we had lunch together at a local restaurant in Atlanta. And Julian called me Mr. Chairman because I had been the chair of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. And he said, `Mr. Chairman, what are you going to do?' I said, `I'm running for Congress.' And I said, `Senator, what are you gonna do?' He said, `I'm running for Congress.' I think that was the shortest lunch we ever had together.
LAMB: He had his son with him, you tell me.
Rep. LEWIS: His--his son was there, and his son is now in the City Council in Atlanta. His son is--Micah was with him. And--but it was a--it--it was a very difficult period because Julian is someone that I was very close to. We were good friends. And that tested our friendship. But I kept saying during that campaign that this was not a referendum on our friendship. It was not about us. It was about the future of the city of Atlanta, about the future of the district and the future of our country, really.
LAMB: And you beat him by what percentage?
Rep. LEWIS: Well, in the first election, the primary, he received 47 percent of the vote and I got only 35 percent and we had a runoff. There were several other candidates. We had a runoff. In three weeks, I went up 17 points and he went up one point. I think I got out there and I worked, and I worked very, very hard. And the mistake that Julian made i--he is so good--he is very good. But the mistake that he made: He challenged me to debate him. He was already the front-runner, and he put me on the same level with him. And I just said, `Here I am. I want to be the congressperson. I may not be able to talk as fast as my colleague, my friend, but Julian is my friend, he is my brother, but I want to be part of an effort to make Atlanta the capital of the 21st century.' And gave a little of my background, my history. And I think the people in the district saw me out there working day in and day out, and I won 52 percent and he f--got 48 percent.
LAMB: Stokely Carmichael--you--but before we get to him, let me just bring up the fact that you--you talk about Mahatma Gandhi, Thomas Merton and Henry David Thoreau as your--your symbols of the non-violence. How c--how come those three? And when did you first get introduced to Gandhi, Thoreau and Merton?
Rep. LEWIS: Well, I first heard of Gandhi through the words of and preaching of Martin Luther King Jr., from a distance. But then a f--oh, about two or three years after Dr. King emerged on the scene, I met a young man by the name of Jim Lawson, the young methodist minister, born in Ohio; had traveled to India, studied Gandhi. This man, this--this young scholar, minister, was--who really believed in--in non-violence--the philosophy of non-violence, not simply as a technique or as a tactic but as a way of life, as a way of living--really embedded me with non-violence and with the teaching of Gandhi; probably did more than any human being to inspire me to try to find a way to live the way that Gandhi would have people to live, I--and serve.

I started reading Merton when I was in school in Nashville as a seminary student, and it w--he was very inspiring--very, very inspiring, reading his work, what he--what he--what he had to say about life, about self, about in a sense forgetting about your own circumstances, losing yourself in the circumstances and the problems of--of others; the whole idea of contemplation, the whole idea of meditation and the whole idea of action and service.

And Thoreau, it was very much in keeping. I read about him. I--I tried to practice civil disobedience from time to time, because many of the problems in the South--we weren't violating necessarily laws; we were violating customs, traditions and sometimes we were violating local laws, state laws. And Thoreau said, in effect, that if you violate a custom, if you violate a local law, then b--be prepared to--to do your time, serve your time. And that's what we tried to do.
LAMB: What was the most time you ever spent in prison?
Rep. LEWIS: Forty days is the longest period I--I spent in time--i--in jail. To be exact, it was 37 days. That was in Mississippi.
LAMB: At the Parchment prison.
Rep. LEWIS: Parchment, the city jail in Jackson and Hinds County jail, but all together it was Parchment. And I will never, ever forget what happened in Parchment during the Freedom Ride. It was--it was unreal traveling through the delta of Mississippi, a group of Freedom Riders amid...
LAMB: You started from where?
Rep. LEWIS: We started from the city of Jackson, and we were taken late at night, after midnight. Early in the morning, a group of men in a huge truck without any windows--and we were taken to the maximum-security unit of Parchment.
LAMB: How far is that from Jackson?
Rep. LEWIS: It's more than a h--about 140 miles.
LAMB: North?
Rep. LEWIS: North.
LAMB: And why had you been in Jackson?
Rep. LEWIS: We--we were arrested in Jackson at the Greyhound bus station. We tried to use the so-called white waiting room, the so-called white rest room facilities, so-called white restaurant.
LAMB: What year?
Rep. LEWIS: I--in--in May of 1961. And there was a police captain there. He became known as Captain Ray. And the moment that you started in, Captain Ray would say, `Move on.' And before you could even move, he would say, `You're under arrest.' And he literally put us in a paddy wagon and took us to jail. We filled the city jail in Jackson. We filled the Hinds County jail in Jackson. And when all of these facilities became full, they decided to take us to Parchment.
LAMB: Is Stokely Carmichael with you?
Rep. LEWIS: Oh, Stokely was one of the--one of the Freedom Riders. He came down from Howard University, from Washington, DC, and became part of the Freedom Riders. That is when I first met Stokely, in May of 1961.
LAMB: So you're on your way overnight to Parchment.
Rep. LEWIS: We traveled to Parchment. You get to Parchment. And a guy tell us, who'd be riding us, to sing our freedom songs now; said, `We have niggers here that will eat you up'--that's what he said. He was talking about the Black Justice. He s--`They will eat you. They will beat you up.' And he brought us all into a long hall and told us all to take off our clothes. And we stood there with all of our clothing off. And theng--and these guys had their rifle drawn on us. And that was--I wasn't afraid, but I was--I was really concerned about what could happen, what was about to happen. Then they led us in twos to take showers. And if you had a beard, mustache, any facial hair, you had to cut it off. There's no mirrors for you to look in. You just have a razor. And while you was there standing, taking your shower, the guy still had this rifle drawn on you.

And then they led us, after the shower's over, in twos into a cell with a bunk bed, a commode and a tiny, tiny face bowl. And that's what we had for the--we stayed nude there for maybe two hours. And then they brought us a pair of Mississippi undershorts and a--and a T-shirt, and that's what we kept on the--our entire stay there.
LAMB: Was there a time when they flooded the cell or something like that, where, you know, there was water you had to sit in?
Rep. LEWIS: Th--they flooded the cell with water. They cut off the air conditioner. And it was very, very, very hot. You're talking about May and June in--i--in--in Mississippi.
LAMB: Why were they doing this?
Rep. LEWIS: Th--they tried to dehumanize us. They tried to de--destroy our sense of dignity and worth. They tried to send a message to other people that were joining the Freedom Ride from all across the country. And they tried--they wanted that message to get out, to send a message for other people not to come to Mississippi.
LAMB: At the height, how many Freedom Riders were there and who were they?
Rep. LEWIS: At the height of the Freedom Ride, there was more than 300 young men and women, but also ministers, rabbis, teachers, doctors, lawyers from all parts of America came there to show their support for the Freedom Ride.
LAMB: Explain tha--that Stokely Carmichael was in Parchment, but d--somebody a--did you ask him to leave, or they--they moved him out of there? Was that where they because he...
Rep. LEWIS: A--at one time during the stay in Parchment, Stokely, along with a few others, could not adhere to the philosophy and to the discipline of non-violence. They were always agitating, making noise or complaining about something. And Stokely and a few others were asked to leave. They were bailed out of jail and sent back to Nashville and eventually back to Washington.
LAMB: When was the last time you saw him?
Rep. LEWIS: I saw Stokely Carmichael about two months ago.
LAMB: When he was here in town?
Rep. LEWIS: He was here in town, here in Washington, being honored. H--he is suffering right now. He's sick. And a group of people came together--it was the first time, I think, in probably 15 to 20 years that all of the chairs of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee--former chairs--have been together.
LAMB: And what would you say is the difference between the two of you and your philosophies today?
Rep. LEWIS: Today I'm a believer. I am a believer in an interracial democracy. I believe in the idea of the beloved community. I believe that we must lay down the burden of race. I believe in integration. I believe that integration, like non-violence, is one of those immutable principles that you cannot deviate from. I--I believe in America. I believe that we gotta have coalition in politics. We cannot divide the American house; we got to keep this house together and build one house, one community, one family.

And I don't think Stokely shares that. Stokely is not a believer in a philosophy--in the discipline of non-violence. I believe in it as a way of life, as a way of living, not just as a means, not just as a technique. And I think some people, like Stokely and others, use it only as a means, only as a technique. And when that happens, it's just like a faucet. You can turn it on and you can turn it off. You have to choose today if you're gonna hate somebody today and love somebody tomorrow. But when you accept non-violence as a way of life, as a way of living, then everything that you do and everything that you say is governed by that principle.
LAMB: Let me show you just an excerpt from an interview that we had with Stokely Carmichael after that event in Washington a couple of weeks ago in New York--just a minute of it. I want you to react to it when you see this.

(Excerpt from videotape)
LAMB: How far would you go with violence f--to bring about the revolution?
Mr. STOKELY CARMICHAEL: All the way. All the way. All the way.
LAMB: What's that--what's that mean?
Mr. STOKELY CARMICHAEL: Whatever's necessary. Whatever's necessary. In terms of carrying out--to destroy the enemy, whatever's necessary.
LAMB: What will? You say the vio--the revolution is coming. When will it come?
Mr. STOKELY CARMICHAEL: We don't know. That's the only trouble, but it's coming.
LAMB: And what will happen when it comes?
Mr. STOKELY CARMICHAEL: Oh, when it comes, there's going to be a real--a real experience of genuine equality and democracy. There's going to be a clearer understanding of the needs that humanity must be--at all times and all conditions be concerned about advancing humanity and that all human beings who are involved in this aspect of life must make a contribution to advance humanity. And there is no question that this is what's going to happen. (End of excerpt)
LAMB: John Lewis, when you gave the speech over at the Lincoln Memorial in 1963, you said the following: `The revolution is at hand, and we must free ourselves of the chains of political and economic slavery.' Define the two revolutions that we're talking about here.
Rep. LEWIS: When I--when I speak of revolution, I'm talking about a revolution of values, a revolution of ideas and I speak in terms of non-violent. That revolution must take place in the hearts, in the minds, in the souls of people, not a revolution i--in the streets. See, I believe that you cannot separate means and ends. Means and the ends are inseparable. If you're striving to create the beloved community and open society--if that is the goal, if that is the end, then the means, the methods must be one of love, one of peace. What Stokely is talking about is--is nonsense. It is crazy. He's dreaming. The great majority of the American people--and I believe the great majority of the people of the world--want to live in a world community at peace with itself. I think it is the desire of humankind not to go down that violent path. W--we're--we're seeing what violence will do. It--it's too much violence. There's been too many killings. It--it leads to chaos, not to--to the essence of community, not to the--the building of a house that is together.
LAMB: Let me really switch subjects here and ask you about a party that you were invited to one time by a man named Bernard Lafayette, a party in which he wanted you to meet someone, your wife. What was that--what--what year was that?
Rep. LEWIS: This is the--I remember that very well. How can I forget it? Bernard Lafayette was an old schoolmate of mine, and he invited me to a party in--in Atlanta. It was a dinner party at the home of a young lady who was on the staff of Martin Luther King Jr. by the name of Xernona Clayton. And it was a dinner party. It was, like, the end of the year, end of 1967. It was the beginning--it was, like, I guess, the eve of 1968. And I remember it so well. The young lady that was at this party that he wanted me to meet--I couldn't drive. I--I didn't have a driving license during that time. He told me I should meet--I should meet this young lady. Her name was Lillian Maus. And we met and talked and we hit it off very well. She was defending the civil rights movement, arguing on behalf of the movement. And she had on a very interesting dress. I will never forget it. And I don't think she really knew what the dress really meant. And it had all of the peace symbols i--in the--in the d--in the--in the dress. And from that day on, from that dinner party, we became friends and later we started dating and, before--in less than a year, we were married, and now we've been married almost 30 years. It'll be 30 years this year.
LAMB: Where is this picture from right down here at the bottom?
Rep. LEWIS: This picture at the bottom was a picture taken at my house in Atlanta with Julian Bond and his wife.
LAMB: I think we got the wrong one--the one with Zell Miller in it first.
Rep. LEWIS: Oh, the one with Zell Miller. Oh, this was when I announced for Congress. This is the one when I announced for Congress in--in 1977 in the special election. That's my wife and son and the governor, Zell Miller, who was lieutenant governor then. That's January 1977.
LAMB: And what was the picture you were talking about, this one right here?
Rep. LEWIS: That one was taken a few years later with Harry Belafonte, Julian Bond and his wife, along with my wife, Lillian.
LAMB: And how much, overall, has your wife played in your campaigns?
Rep. LEWIS: My wife's been--she's m--my closest and dearest friend. She has played a major role in every campaign--in every campaign. She got out and she campaigned very hard and she worked very, very hard. She knows a lot of people. And she's a good talker, and she's been a--a--a real soulmate, really.
LAMB: There are two things in the book that I wanna ask you about. One is that when you were young, you talk about going to the library every day to read The Nashville Tennesseean when you were in school. Who introduced you to reading newspapers, and why did you do that every day?
Rep. LEWIS: Well, when I was in--in this rural high school in Pike County, Alabama, we had a librarian--maybe we called it a reading room, but to the woman in charge, it was called the librarian--and she always said, `Read. Read. Read everything.' And we'd go down there, and sometimes she would just say--tell the students, `Be quiet,' and she would say, `Read.' And I started reading. My folks, my mother and father--we couldn't afford a subscription to a newspaper, but my grandfather had a subscription to a newspaper. And after he would finish with his paper, every single day we would get his newspaper and read it. And with the newspaper and the radio, we stayed informed. And I read The Montgomery Advertiser growing up, and when I went to Nashville, I read The Nashville Tennesseean every single day. It was a way of keeping informed, staying informed on what was happening in different parts of the country.
LAMB: Who was around Nashville in those days?
Rep. LEWIS: Well, you--you had several wonderful, wonderful people. There was a young reporter working for The Nashville Tennesseean who covered the movement named David Halberstam who later went on and became the reporter for the--for The New York Times. There was John Siegenthaler. There was just a cadre of unbelievable people that I got to know in Nashville in the media. But, also, I met W.E.B. DuBois one day on the campus of Fisk University. He was walking across the campus, and I met him. And we passed by, and then I went back and I was introduced to him.
LAMB: You mentioned John Siegenthaler. He pops up in all these books on the civil rights movement as a f--person that was in and out of the scene. And in one case in your book, he got clobbered on the head with a pipe.
Rep. LEWIS: He was beaten.
LAMB: What was his role?
Rep. LEWIS: Well, h--i--in 1961, he was President Kennedy's personal representative to try to negotiate a--a--a--a truce, an agreement, with the governor of Alabama to get us out of Birmingham to Montgomery and to get assurance from the governor of Alabama and the state official that they would protect the Freedom Riders. So John Siegenthaler was there on behalf of President Kennedy in May of 1961, and he got caught between trying to shepherd, protect some of the young Freedom Riders and the mob, and he was caught and--and beaten and left lying unconscious on the streets of Montgomery.
LAMB: You still see him?
Rep. LEWIS: Oh, I see John Siegenthaler a great deal. He's a good friend. You know, when you're going through wars with people, you've shared battles, y--you--you try to stay in touch.
LAMB: When did you first meet Bobby Kennedy?
Rep. LEWIS: I first met Bobby Kennedy in the spring of 1963. He was attorney general. Bobby Kennedy was an unbelievable person as attorney general, and I got to know him very well as attorney general and later as senator from--from New York. I remember him saying to me once in July of 1963--he said, `John, I now understand. The young people, the students, have educated me. They have taught me a lesson.' This--this man really did believe--he became convinced and committed--he believed deeply in his soul, in his gut, I--I think, in the cause of civil rights and--and social justice.
LAMB: When did you first go to work for him politically?
Rep. LEWIS: In March of 1968, when he announced that he was--seek the Democratic nomination for the presidency. I sent him a telegram. I was in Jackson, Mississippi, and said, `Senator Kennedy, I want to help. I want to volunteer. I want to be part of your campaign.' And he asked some of his people to call me, and they called me and they invited me to go to Indiana, to Indianapolis. And I went to Indianapolis to work on voter registration and organizing mass rallies on behalf of--of the Kennedy campaign. And I was with Bobby Kennedy the night of April 4th, 1968, when we heard that Dr. King had been shot. I w--I didn't know--I just heard that he had been shot and didn't know what condition he was in or anything. And Robert Kennedy came and spoke to the crowd that we had organized and announced that Dr. King had been assassinated. And I will never forget that evening. And I sort of said to myself during that week leading up to Dr. King's funeral--sort of said, `Well, we still have Bobby Kennedy.' And I threw myself into that campaign. I went to Atlanta to--to the funeral and just got m--very much involved in the campaign--went out to Oregon, campaigned for Robert Kennedy; introduced him at a college student rally out there. Then I went on to California. And I just knew he was going to win the Democratic nomination. We saw hundreds and thousands of people just filling the streets of Los Angeles, the motorcade of--pulling for Robert Kennedy.
LAMB: Go back for a moment to the night that Martin Luther King was killed. You say that the crowd that assembled did not know that he had been shot?
Rep. LEWIS: The people in the crowd did not know.
LAMB: In Indianapolis?
Rep. LEWIS: In Indianapolis that evening. We hadn't told anyone. People did not know it. They were just standing there waiting for Bobby Kennedy to come and speak.
LAMB: Well, di--did he tell 'em first?
Rep. LEWIS: Ri--it was Robert Kennedy who spoke to the crowd and said, `I have some bad news f--tonight. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee.' And people just cried. Some people just dropped to their knees. And Robert Kennedy went on and--and spoke, and he urged people not to turn to violence, not to get lost in a sea of despair.
LAMB: Now what was the scene later, where you say he threw himself on the bed?
Rep. LEWIS: We went back--we left the rally and we went back to the local hotel, where we all went into his room, and he laid across the bed. And we all were sitting down. And we all cried. We all cried there together.
LAMB: Did that surprise you, that he was that emotional about it?
Rep. LEWIS: It didn't surprise me because I think Bobby Kennedy had grown so much during that period, and he felt very strongly that we needed to make some changes in America, that he felt that Dr. King was the best person, probably, to help us make those changes through peaceful, non-violent action.
LAMB: And where were you then in California when he was killed?
Rep. LEWIS: When Bobby Kennedy was shot, I was in his room on the fifth floor of the Ambassador Hotel. I had spoken with him just a few minutes earlier. He joked with me that evening. He said, `John, you let me down tonight. You let me down. More Mexican-American voters turned out and voted for me than negroes.' And he sort of suggested that we wait for him and that he would be back in 15 minutes.

So I was in his room in the Ambassador Hotel, fifth floor, with Teddy White, the writer, several other media people, members of his family and others. And we saw the announcement--it was a bulletin saying that S--Senator Kennedy had been shot. And we all just dropped to our knees. I cried, like so many other people. We--we cried. I just wanted to get out of LA that--that night. I just wanted to leave. I wanted to get to Atlanta. So the next morning I boarded a plane and flew from Los Angeles to Atlanta. And I think I cried all the way from Los Angeles back to Atlanta. And there, I can recall, as we--and this is June 6th--as we flew across the mountains in Colorado, Arizona, or someplace along the way, I could still see the snow o--on the mountains.

But I got back to--to Atlanta, and a day or so later the family invited me to come to New York for the funeral. And I went there the night before the funeral and stood at one of the honor guard with Reverend Abernathy. And then the next day I went to the funeral. After the funeral, I boarded this funeral train and traveled from New York. And all along the way you saw people with sign--hand-made signs saying, `We love you, Bobby,' `Goodbye, Bobby'--just hundreds and thousands of people waving, waving. And somehow, in some way, you--I didn't want that train to stop in Washington. You--you just want it to--to keep going, but we knew this was the end. 'Cause Bobby Kennedy represented so much hope and so much optimism, the same way that Martin Luther King Jr. did.
LAMB: Earlier I asked you about the newspaper reading. You still read a newspaper today?
Rep. LEWIS: Oh, yes, I r--I read the newspaper. You know, it's--not being able to read a newspaper, it would--would just mess up my day. A...
LAMB: I want to connect that, though, with the books because you also tell us about your book collection. You have books here; you have books down in Atlanta. But you found a book in a bookstore one time. How did that happen, and why was that so important?
Rep. LEWIS: Well, I--I--I--I lo--I love books. I--I--I love books. Books are important. I remember when I was growing up, I couldn't check the book out of a--out of the library because I was black, and they didn't allow blacks to come into the public library in Pike County, Alabama, in Troy. And s--and we had very few books in o--in our home. So any time I could get a book to read, I wanted to read a book.

So I got into collecting books. And I would go to antique shops, flea markets and different places to try to find a good, old book. A--and one day in Washington I--I went to a market, an old flea market in just an old store out on the highway near Washington National Airport. And it was a lot of dust. And I saw this book. It was "Stride Toward Freedom," with a jacket on it.
LAMB: "Stride Toward Freedom."
Rep. LEWIS: By Martin Luther King Jr., s--telling the story of the Montgomery bus boycott. And I looked in this book. It w--said, `Best wishes, Martin Luther King Jr., June 21st, 1960.' So I took this book and I looked in it, kept looking--there was a program in this book from a chur--a local church in Washington, DC, where Dr. King spoke at 10 AM, then he spoke again at 4 PM at the same church.

So I took the book and I closed it up and I went to the counter and I said, `Ma'am, how much do you want for this book?' And she looked at it. She said, `Fifty cents.' I gave her $1. She gave me 50 cents back, and I got outta there. And I--and I've cherished that book because once before, Martin Luther King Jr. autographed a book to me, and someone in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee liberated that book. They took that book from me. I don't know what happened to it. And I--so I value that particular book, autographed by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
LAMB: Our guest has been John Lewis, now congressman from Atlanta. Here is the title of the book, "Walking With the Wind: A Memoir." We thank you very much.
Rep. LEWIS: Thank you.


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