John has always been one of my heroes, stubborn, courageous, principled, and kind, and with a streak of impish humor. Among his denim-clad peers in SNCC, he always dressed in a suit and tie—always. His slight speech impediment, a slurred lisp, made you listen closely to him. Although many, if not most, SNCC folk tended to belittle MLK (for example, calling him “De Lawd”), John revered King and would never join in the organization’s cultural irreverence and disrespect for King and his SCLC organization. I was excited when he won election to Congress (and sorry about the divisive political battle between him and Julian Bond for that seat). I loved his memoir, “Walking with the Wind,” because it was so genuine and had so much of him in it.
Rep John Lewis (Courtesy Photo)
When Karen Olson and I journeyed to Atlanta in 1965 to work in SNCC’s national office, we moved in with fellow SNCC staffers Amanda and John Perdew, and their small child. Soon after Chris was born that November, I got into a loud argument with Amanda over some slight, and we abruptly moved out. I can’t recall the details, but John immediately invited us to move into his apartment with him; in fact, he offered us his bedroom while he slept on the couch. We did not have a crib for Chris, so he went into one of John’s bureau drawers. This arrangement continued until we found an apartment in DeKalb county, just west of Atlanta.
Grenville Whitman
Former AFRO Copyeditor