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VIDEO: Al Williams reflects on John Lewis

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I’m proud that Rep. John Lewis was one of the guideposts of my life. He was a man of deep faith.

I’m more proud that I considered him a friend, though I suspect everyone who met the man thought of him as a friend. He had a true love for people even after numerous beatings and trips to jail.

The man who was considered the moral conscious of Congress died Friday after a dignified battle with cancer. He served in Congress since 1987, 17 terms, and stood for his 18th this year, despite his illness.

I met the future Atlanta lawmaker in 1963 when I was 16. He was 23 and had just become chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. Two years later I marched with him from Selma to Washington. I learned much about him from observing him. Unfortunately I did not see him when he came to Liberty County with other Civil Rights Movement leaders to plan actions, and to relax at Dorchester Academy.

His influence on the country spread across the country, even continuing here in Liberty County. He encouraged me in 2002 when I had decided to seek public office and ran for the Georgia House. During a conversation in front of the Capitol in Atlanta, he predicted I would win.

To honor the Georgia icon, I’m sponsoring a bill to replace the statue of Alexander Stephens with one of Rep. Lewis in the National Statuary Hall at the U.S. Capitol in Washington. Stephens served as vice president of the Confederacy and later as Georgia governor. Georgia gave the Stephens statue to the national collection in 1927.

The change would be a fitting tribute to John Lewis. And Stephens’ family has pledged support to the change.

Al Williams

Williams, D-Midway, represents the 168th District in the Georgia House, which now largely covers Liberty County.