A Memory

Congressman John Lewis, civil rights icon and truly one of god’s greatest human creations is dead in this world he struggled mightily to make better. I knew him only peripherally when I was communications director for the Peace Corps years ago. On a cold morning in Chicago I met him at his hotel to accompany him, as I’d done various other times, to a radio interview, TV talk show (memory lapse?) either at WBBM or WGN to discuss anti-poverty issues and initiatives. Driving my tiny Renault LeCar north on pot-holed Halsted street, a front wheel cratered and blew out. As I pulled over to the trash-littered berm near Halsted & Grand, John was the first to jump out to survey the damage. I’d never changed a tire on this pathetic little car but before I could hide my dismay John had the jack out of the trunk and was handily loosening the lugs. I grabbed the spare and quicker than a NASCAR pit stop tire change we were on our way. I’d scheduled and accompanied many clients on various media tours but I remember John Lewis as the most real and authentic; no pretense, no exhibit of self-importance, no ego-tripping. He exuded decency, compassion and the seriousness of a man older than his age. Though brief and trivial my encounters with John Lewis were, they always left me with a sense that I was in the presence of a great man. I didn’t know he would go on to become a gifted Congressional Representative whose most important accomplishment was representing the conscience of America. When he spoke, in conversation or in public, his words were often eloquently simple, delivered with the hard conviction of a man who lived his experience,truth and convictions. Yeah, we changed a flat tire together one morning in Chicago. And without me he went on and did his part to make the world a better place.

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