Introduction to Rev. James Lawson’s Eulogy at Congressman John Lewis’ Atlanta Funeral

Rev. James M. Lawson, one of the founding members of the National Council of Elders (NCOE) gave a stirring and unforgettable Eulogy at Congressman John Lewis’ Funeral held at the iconic Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia, on July 30, 2020. Lawson was a leading theoretician and tactician of Non-violence within the Civil Rights Movement, beginning in the 1950s. During the 1960s he was the Civil Disobedience and Non-Violence Trainer to the Nashville Student Movement where he first met John Lewis and the others who would launch the Student Sit-In Movement. He was a mentor to the early founders of SNCC (Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee) and was a chief advisor to Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the SCLC (Southern Christian Leadership Conference). One of the many significant things Lawson did in his Eulogy was to contextualize Congressman Lewis’ early activism as a member of a Movement that was about more than the Voting Rights Act. He stated: “The media makes a mistake when John is only seen in relation to the Voting Rights Act of 1965.  …John Lewis must be understood as one of the leaders of the greatest advance of the Congress and the White House on behalf of we the people of the USA.” Continuing, Lawson stated: “Lewis practiced not the politics that we call bipartisan,” but instead “the politics of the Declaration of Independence, [and] the politics of the preamble of the Constitution.”  Lawson also rejected calling the Movement that he, King, Lewis, and thousands of  others fought, bled, and died for, the “Civil Rights Movement,” rather he said it was and is “The Non-Violent Movement in America.”