Category: News Briefs Published on Monday, 26 August 2013 00:17 Written by CNN News
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The youngest speaker at the march, and is the only speaker still alive today.
At 23 years old, John Lewis was the youngest speaker at the March on Washington and probably the most controversial. He had just been elected to lead the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.
Lewis' father was a sharecropper in rural Alabama, where he grew up and went to segregated schools. According to his biography, Lewis "was inspired by the activism surrounding the Montgomery Bus Boycott and the words of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., which he heard on radio broadcasts."
His prepared text for the March on Washington included a threat to march through the South like Gen. William Sherman during the Civil War unless there was progress on civil rights.
That didn't sit well with his fellow civil rights leaders.
"On the night of August 27, 1963, I received a note under my door from (march organizer) Bayard Rustin saying, in effect, that there was some concern about my speech," Lewis said. "My speech was pretty strong."
Another march organizer, A. Philip Randolph, also asked Lewis to edit his speech.
"And Mr. Randolph came and said, 'John, we come this far together. Can you change this? Can you delete that? Let's stay together,' " Lewis recalled.
So he did.
Today, Lewis, 73, is the only surviving speaker. He has represented Georgia in the U.S. Congress for 14 consecutive terms.
Some days, he still walks down to the Lincoln Memorial to stand where they all once stood.
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