Jul 18, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Interviewing John Lewis: What his presence inspired

John Lewis
Rep. John Lewis. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Axios managing editor David Nather remembers interviewing Rep. John Lewis for a CQ profile in 2002:

I was struck by something you don't always hear in the tributes. He said he was shy as a boy, but put his inhibitions aside to join the civil rights movement — figuring that if others were putting themselves on the line, he should too.

  • He said he was still shy, but that his political life drew him out. "I think the movement liberated me," he said at the time, "and I think being in Congress liberated me more."

My thought bubble: He struck me as dignified, gentle and soft-spoken — not at all what you'd expect from the thundering presence you saw in his speeches.

  • He gave you his full, undivided attention. And when he thanked you for your time, he seemed sincere and humble about it, even though you knew how many demands he actually had on his own time.

The bottom line: There aren't a lot of genuine heroes in the crises we're facing now. That's probably making the grief over his passing even more intense.

  • He left some awfully big shoes to fill.
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