Legendary civil rights activist and Georgia congressman John Lewis succumbed to cancer at the age of 80 on Friday, July 17th. Much has been and will be written about the great man and as such, a blog dedicated to the musings of Lee Marvin may seem an odd choice to add to that cornucopia. However, I do have a personal reason to include my thoughts on the Lewis legacy.
As a disclaimer, I’d like to point out that Lee Marvin himself was certainly not known as a civil rights activist. He did believe in it, though, as my research into Lee Marvin Point Blank would discover. In fact, one of his closest friends was African-American athlete and actor, Woody Strode who considered Marvin to be like a brother. Marvin may not have gone to any demonstrations or marched with Dr. King like Burt Lancaster did. Marvin did, however, make sure Woody Strode got proper billing in The Professionals which counts for something.
Now, what does any of this have to do with the passing of John Lewis? I’ll put it this way: I was personally very glad that despite his common use of racial epithets, Marvin believed in civil rights and equality. However, the life and work of John Lewis is in a category all by itself in that regard, and since this is my blog, I choose to honor the Lewis’s legacy.
I remember when Obama was president and massive protests by the Tea Party against the passage of Obamacare. As Lewis was walking the capitol steps to cast his vote, a protester spat on him! I was beyond angry seeing that live on the news. The individual who did that had no idea what Lewis had gone through in his life but I had an inkling.
A few years back my sister gave me a book entitled The 100 Greatest Americans of the 20th Century, subtitled A Social Justice Hall of Fame. The work was compiled by Peter Dreier and it is impressive. Below is the chapter on Lewis and I highly encourage its reading. It tells the importance of Lewis’s contribution to America better than I ever could. The anecdote used as a framing device to begin and conclude the chapter speaks volumes. Wonder if the woman who spat on him ever read it. Kind of doubt it.
Rest in Peace Congressman Lewis. Your legacy is secure.
– Dwayne Epstein