Jan 01, 2013 11:31 PM EST
Family and friends are fondly remembering the life of Congressman’s John Lewis’ wife. Lillian Lewis died Monday at Emory Hospital in Atlanta.
Although she stayed mostly out of the public eye, Lillian Lewis supported and advised her husband for more than four decades.
Xernona Clayton says she and Lillian Lewis were best friends for nearly 50 years. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. introduced the two Los Angeles natives, who were both passionate about the civil rights movement in the South.
“She knew music. She knew art. She knew literature. She knew places and things. She was well-traveled, well versed, knowledgeable about so many things. And unimpressed with her knowledge. A lot of people want flaunt it…Lillian never did that,” said Clayton.
It was that intellect and humility that compelled Xernona Clayton to introduce her friend Lillian Miles to a civil rights activist named John Lewis on New Year’s Eve in 1967. By the end of 1968, the two were married.
“Lillian said, ‘I do and I will,’ and she did,” said Clayton. Clayton says Mrs. Lewis was active and supportive of Lewis’ role in the civil rights movement and was a close advisor in his political career and his historic election to Congress.
“Although she was not a public person, her commitment was to him, not to what she did or did not want. So she gave it her all. She would always do the whispering kind of things, ‘Why don’t you do this, why don’t you call that person? why don’t you secure the telephone from this person.’ That is the way she would counsel him and give him the benefit of her thinking,” said Clayton.
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