UAlbany to Award Honorary Degree to Congressman, Civil Rights Activist
Contact: Lisa James Goldsberry (518) 437-4989
The Honorable John Lewis, U.S. Representative for the 5th Congressional
District of Georgia and an important civil rights activist, will receive
an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from the University at Albany on Thursday,
Feb. 15. The honorary degree convocation will take place at 2:30 p.m.
in the Recital Hall of the Performing Arts Center on the University's
Uptown Campus. The Doctor of Laws is the highest honor bestowed by the
State University of New York system.
"The Honorable John Lewis has dedicated his life and repeatedly risked
his personal safety to champion the rights of his fellow citizens. The
United States is a tangibly better country for his efforts and the University
at Albany is proud to recognize his many accomplishments with this Honorary
Degree," said University President Karen R. Hitchcock.
Lewis will also serve as keynote speaker for UAlbany's annual Martin
Luther King, Jr. Luncheon, to be held the same day at noon in the Campus
Center Ballroom. Both the convocation and the luncheon are free and
open to the public.
"No other United States elected official embodies the grand legacy
of Martin Luther King, Jr. more than U.S. Representative John Lewis,"
said Carson Carr, assistant vice president for Academic Affairs and
director of Albany's Educational Opportunities Program. "He is a national
Carr will present "Congressman John Lewis: A Video Workshop" on Wednesday,
Feb. 14, at 7 p.m. in Lecture Center 19. The program will give an historical
perspective of Lewis's contri-butions. Carr and Virgil Hodges, former
executive director of the Martin Luther King Institute for Non-Violence,
will speak and answer questions. The workshop is free and open to the
Born the son of Alabama sharecroppers in 1940, Lewis organized sit-in
demonstrations at segregated lunch counters in Tennessee and was chairman
of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, which he helped to
found. In 1961, he volunteered to participate in the Freedom Rides,
which were organized to challenge segregation at interstate bus terminals
across the South.
At age 23, he was recognized as one of the six primary leaders of the
Civil Rights Movement and was an organizer and keynote speaker at the
1963 March on Washington D.C. Lewis coordinated voter registration drives
during the "Mississippi Freedom Summer" in 1964. He was at the front
of the line during both of the legendary marches from Selma to Montgomery,
Alabama, where a clubbing by Alabama State Troopers fractured his skull.
One major result of the "Mississippi Freedom Summer" was the Voting
Rights Act of 1965.
Lewis went on to become director of the Voter Education Project which,
under his leadership, changed the country's political climate by adding
virtually four million minorities to voter rolls. In 1977, President
Jimmy Carter appointed Lewis to direct more than 250,000 volunteers
of ACTION, the federal volunteer agency.
Elected to Congress in 1986, Lewis co-chairs the Congressional Urban
Caucus and is a member of both the Congressional Caucus on Anti-Semitism
and the Congressional Committee to Support Writers and Journalists.
In 1998, Lewis co-authored Walking with the Wind: A Memoir of the Movement,
along with writer Michael D'Orso. The book, a firsthand account of the
Civil Rights movement, received the prestigious Robert F. Kennedy Book
Award in 1999.
For more than 30 years, Lewis has taken on major leadership roles in
the struggles for human and civil rights in the U.S., dedicating his
life to securing personal dignity and building what Dr. Martin Luther
King, Jr., called "The Beloved Community."
For more University at Albany information, visit our World Wide Web
site at http://www.albany.edu.
February 7, 2001
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