Congressman John Lewis recalls the March on Washington - - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

Congressman John Lewis recalls the March on Washington


The nation celebrates the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s iconic "I Have a Dream" speech on Aug. 28.

Atlanta is King's birthplace. Many of the people with him on that day were from Atlanta.

The leaders of the March on Washington are known as the "Big Six." The sole survivor is Congressman John Lewis. As a young man, he stood shoulder-to-shoulder with King, a man he calls his big brother, his inspiration, his hero.

"Fifty years ago I will never forget," Lewis said.

Lewis was 23 years old on Aug. 28, 1963. He remembers the March on Washington clearly.

"We came down Constitution Avenue walking, and we saw a sea of humanity on the move. People were already marching. It was like we're the leaders, there go my people, let me catch up with them," Lewis said.

The 50,000 to 60,000 expected on the National Mall swelled into well over 250,000 people.

"I just smiled to myself and said, 'this is it.' They were black and white, Latino and Asian American and Native American. They came from all over America," Lewis said.

"This is the 'Big Six,'" said Lewis looking at a picture. "We became like a band of brothers, a circle of trust."

The "Big Six" civil rights leaders instrumental in the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom comprised of John Lewis, Whitney Young, A. Philip Randolph, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., James Farmer and Roy Wilkins.

King delivered the memorable last speech of the day from the Lincoln Memorial. 

"He turned those marble steps of the Lincoln Memorial into a modern day pulpit and he preached. I can hear him saying what he said on that day, he said, 'I have a dream today, a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream today in keeping with the American dream.' It was so moving, so powerful and the people got with him, some were saying Amen and some were just yelling and cheering, but he lift them up," Lewis said.

Lewis saw a picture of the "Big Six" meeting with President John F. Kennedy right after the March for the first time just a few years ago.

"He stood in the door of the oval office. He was beaming like a proud father. He shook our hand, each one of us. He said 'you did a good job, you did a good job.' And when he got to Dr. King, he said, 'and you had a dream.'"

Lewis said at that moment, he knew it was an important day, but he didn't know it would have an impact for so many years to come.

CBS Atlanta will be in Washington, D.C., along with Lewis, for the historic 50th anniversary of the March on Washington and the "I Have a Dream" speech with live coverage on Aug. 27 and 28.

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