To be named in honor of Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), the only surviving major leader of the civil rights movement, the professorship will be held by a distinguished scholar who will further academic scholarship on the issues of civil rights and social justice. The law school has committed to raise an additional $500,000 for the chair.
As chair of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee from 1963 to 1966, Lewis organized sit-ins and demonstrations, was an architect of and a keynote speaker at the March on Washington in August 1963, led protesters on the famous Selma-to-Montgomery march for voting rights, and was beaten during that march on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma. He has served in the House of Representatives since 1987.
"John Lewis exemplifies the values of courage, commitment, dignity, humanity, fairness, and equal opportunity that were and are the hallmarks of the movement," the donor said in a statement. "Congressman Lewis is an inspiration to us as he continues to speak out against injustice and to fight for equality and civil rights. Atlanta holds an important place in the history of civil rights in the U.S., and John Lewis is a central figure in that history; we hope that a professorship at Emory Law School in his name will in some small way help to continue the good and great work that he has done these last fifty years."
"Congressman John Lewis has exemplified profound understanding of the moral imperative of justice and has demonstrated the courage it often takes for a society to abide by the rule of law," said Emory University president James Wagner. "Emory University is deeply honored that the congressman has allowed us to recognize his contributions to American social justice through the naming of this professorship. The John Lewis Professorship will both honor a great American and remind future Emory-educated attorneys of the responsibility bequeathed to them as servants of the law."