I can’t add to the well-deserved paeans to Congressman Lewis but I can share a few memories that hopefully highlight him as a person.
Even with the most charitable interpretation I can’t say that I was close to, or truly knew him. I did have several close experiences with Congressman Lewis over a 12-year period.
What always struck me is that he did not know any other way to be than kind and caring to people. That makes him singularly unrelatable in today’s political world but an always-timely inspiration.
Even when eating a quiet lunch or walking to his car, Congressman Lewis would continually be interrupted by well-wishers and people thanking him for his work. I don’t know how someone can have that be their life and not become egotistical. But Congressman Lewis didn’t seem to care. His work wasn’t finished and he wanted to know people were still engaged and voting. Again, a singularly out-of-place outlook.
In 2008, the Wimbledon Ladies Final was an all-Williams Sisters matchup and somehow I ended up back at Congressman Lewis’ house to watch the final (as one does). I remember standing in the corner of his living room looking at photos of him meeting every luminary you could imagine and he walks up to me and goes: “President Clinton was in that very spot last weekend looking at those photos.” It was the pure matter-of-factness that while he knew he was one of the country’s most respected and influential voices that doesn’t change who he was or give him an inflated sense of self worth. Yet again, an utterly unrelatable philosophy for a politician.
Congressman Lewis was influential in D.C. not just because of his seniority but because of who he was. I know whoever replaces Lewis will be a fine member of congress. But it will be virtually impossible to replicate the influence he had.
Requiescat in pace.