Nashville unveils historical marker honoring Rep. John Lewis

More events planned tonight, Saturday
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Posted at 6:43 AM, Jul 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-16 19:28:01-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF/AP) — Nashville officials celebrated the legacy of civil rights icon John Lewis Friday morning by unveiling a historical marker in his honor. This was the first of many events planned for this weekend.

Members of the Lewis family joined several Nashville officials, including Mayor John Cooper and Council Members Zulfat Suara and Freddie O'Connell, for today's marker unveiling.

Watch the full ceremony below:

Congressman John Lewis' legacy is felt across the country but some places feel his presence stronger than others. He was the boy from Troy Alabama, but Lewis became a giant in Nashville Tennessee.

"John Lewis lived here, worked here, marched here, and protest here for justice. I’m happy for Nashville and the nation," said Dr. Forrest E. Harris, president of American Baptist College.

John Lewis' family is in Nashville this weekend for the dedication ceremony events.

"We’re really impressed and we’re really excited about this weekend and I know the congressman would be so proud," said Henry Lewis, younger brother.

As a college student at American Baptist College and then Fisk University, Lewis fought for racial justice.

Lewis and Civil Rights activist were involved in the historic lunch counter sit-ins in downtown Nashville in 1960.

The same year they also marched to the city courthouse where they met Mayor Ben West and he agreed it was time to desegregate public places.

"We’re just really excited about the whole weekend, and the team and the city of Nashville has done a wonderful job with marker and also the street naming," Henry Lewis said.

Last year, the City passed an ordinance to rename Fifth Avenue Rep. John Lewis Way.

Lewis passed on July 17, 2020, and even through his death the push for "good trouble" continues.

"I’ve seen a lot of positive change, not only him but a lot of people involved in this same movement,"Henry Lewis said,"Because he never wanted any special recognition, he was so humble. So, his main thing was making a difference.

The event was originally scheduled for February but was delayed due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Here's a schedule of events for the next two days:

  • Memorial service: Friday at 6 p.m. at First Baptist Church – Capitol Hill 635 Rosa Parks Blvd.
  • Unveiling ceremony and march: Saturday at 9 a.m. at the intersection of Jefferson Street and Rep. John Lewis Way
  • Celebration of life: Saturday at 11 a.m. at the Ryman Auditorium and 116 Rep. John Lewis Way North

Earlier this year, Nashville's Metro Council renamed a large portion of Fifth Avenue North to Rep. John Lewis Way. Councilwoman Suara submitted the request last year, focusing on Lewis' work to desegregate Nashville's lunch counters before becoming a long-serving congressman in Georgia.

Lewis began his lifelong crusade for civil rights while he was a student at American Baptist Theological Seminary and later at Fisk University. A memorial service will be held tonight at the historic First Baptist Church on Rosa L. Parks Boulevard, where speakers will remember his time in Nashville.

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