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February 12, 2019

Georgia Congressman John Lewis to receive ABA Thurgood Marshall Award

WASHINGTON, Feb. 12, 2019 — The American Bar Association Section of Civil Rights and Social Justice will honor Georgia Congressman and Civil Rights leader John Lewis with its 2019 Thurgood Marshall Award. Lewis is one of the original 13 Freedom Riders, a founding member and chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, the surviving “Big Six” civil rights leader who organized the 1964 March on Washington, a 17-term congressional leader, and one of only two Lifetime Achievement recipients of the John F. Kennedy Profiles in Courage Award.

The award will be presented at the Thurgood Marshall Award Dinner on Saturday, Aug. 10, at 8 p.m. at the Westin St. Francis Hotel during the ABA Annual Meeting in San Francisco. The award honors U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, who epitomized individual commitment, in word and action, to the cause of civil rights in this country. The award recognizes similar long-term contributions by other members of the legal profession to the advancement of civil rights, civil liberties, and human rights in the United States.

Lewis, U.S. Representative of Georgia’s Fifth Congressional District, has served there since 1986. Protecting human rights and securing civil liberties has been the hallmark of his career. As a college student, Lewis organized sit-in demonstrations and participated in Freedom Rides, to challenge the injustice of Jim Crow segregation in the South. A devoted advocate of the philosophy of nonviolence, Lewis was arrested more than 40 times and endured physical attacks and serious injuries for the advancement of the Civil Rights Movement.

“Now more than ever, his words are relevant, his voice is vital, and his presence is powerful,” said Wilson Adam Schooley, chair of the Section of Civil Rights and Social Justice. “A legendary lion of the civil rights movement, John Lewis still roars, and we all need to hear his clarion call.” 

Grammy Award winning artist, Rhiannon Giddens, will inspire the evening with a musical performance. Giddens is a MacArthur “Genius” grant artist. She’s featured in the May issue of the New Yorker magazine, “Rhiannon Giddens and What Folk Music Means.”

She is an artist with both a breathtaking gift and a passion—like John Lewis—to speak for the truly silenced. She has made a career revitalizing and invigorating music reflecting the African-American experience.

Lewis is the Senior Chief Deputy Whip for the Democratic Party in leadership in the House, a member of the House Ways & Means Committee, a member of its Subcommittee on Income Security and Family Support, and the Ranking Member of its Subcommittee on Oversight.

Lewis, a former Atlanta city councilman, earned his undergraduate degree in Religion and Philosophy from Fisk University and is a graduate of the American Baptist Theological Seminary. He holds multiple honorary degrees from Fisk, Harvard, Brown University, the University of Pennsylvania, Princeton, Duke, Columbia, Morehouse College, Clark-Atlanta University, Howard University, Brandeis University, and Troy State University.

The ABA Section of Civil Rights and Social Justice provides leadership within the legal profession in protecting and advancing human rights, civil liberties and social justice. Representing nearly 10,000 members with a wide range of professional interests, the section keeps its members abreast of complex civil rights and civil liberties issues and ensures that the protection of individual rights remains a focus of legal and policy discussion.

There is no charge for media covering this event. To register, please contact Betsy Adeboyejo at 202-662-1039 or [email protected].

With more than 400,000 members, the American Bar Association is one of the largest voluntary professional membership organizations in the world. As the national voice of the legal profession, the ABA works to improve the administration of justice, promotes programs that assist lawyers and judges in their work, accredits law schools, provides continuing legal education, and works to build public understanding around the world of the importance of the rule of law. View our privacy statement online. Follow the latest ABA news at and on Twitter @ABANews.