John Robert Lewis (born February 21, 1940) is an American politician and civil rights leader. He is the U.S. Representative for Georgia's 5th congressional district, serving since 1987, and is the dean of the Georgia congressional delegation. The district includes the northern three-quarters of Atlanta.
Lewis was one of the "Big Six" leaders in the American Civil Rights Movement and chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), playing a key role in the struggle to end legalized racial discrimination and segregation. A member of the Democratic Party, Lewis is a member of the Democratic leadership of the House of Representatives and has served in the Whip organization since shortly after his first election to the U.S. Congress.
He is Senior Chief Deputy Whip, leading an organization of chief deputy whips and serves as the primary assistant to the Democratic Whip. He has held this position since 1991.
Lewis is one of the most liberal members of the House, and one of the most liberal congressmen ever to represent a district in the Deep South. He has been labeled a "far-left Democratic leader" by Gov Track and a "Hard-Core Liberal" by Issues 2000. The Washington Post described Lewis in 1998 as "a fiercely partisan Democrat but ... also fiercely independent." Lewis characterized himself as a strong and adamant liberal. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution said Lewis was the "only former major civil rights leader who extended his fight for human rights and racial reconciliation to the halls of Congress". The Atlanta Journal-Constitution also said that to "those who know him, from U.S. senators to 20-something congressional aides", he is called the "conscience of Congress". Lewis has cited former Florida Senator and Congressman Claude Pepper, a staunch liberal, as being the colleague that he has most admired. Lewis has spoken out in support of gay rights and national health insurance, and he has worked with the Faith and Politics Institute to advance their goals.
John Lewis was chairman of SNCC during its most productive years. During his tenure, SNCC opened Freedom Schools, launched the Mississippi Freedom Summer and is generally recognized as one of the important leaders of the civil rights movement. He was a hard-working young man who overcame poverty and political disenfranchisement to educate himself.