Zach Wamp & Yusuf Hakeem remember John Lewis


CHATTANOOGA (WDEF) – While John Lewis’ funeral was held today in Atlanta, Friends and colleagues here in the Tennessee Valley are remembering the civil rights icon, too.

News 12’s Bekah Birdsall talks to a pair of local men who knew and respected John Lewis.

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“He was an icon, a giant among men. He was willing to be brutally beaten over a cause of justice and equality.”

Zach Wamp, a former U.S. Representative for Tennessee, says he and John Lewis met the day he was sworn in as a representative back in 1995.

“I got to walk side by side with him in congress for 16 years and do things in Oak Ridge, Tennessee and Chattanooga, Tennessee together. I would meet him there and here and in Washington and got to know him and what a privilege it was to be the friend of the great John Lewis.”

Zach explains the immense passion that came from John, and describes him as the most humble and kind person as anyone you’ve ever met.

“A lot of people don’t know this about him, but he used to sneak from Atlanta to Chattanooga to do his clothes shopping and he would tell me when he would come here because he would go to Warehouse Row downtown. He liked to get out of Atlanta to do his shopping because everyone in Atlanta knew him.”

He says what he’ll miss the most about John is if people do not try and act like he did with his ability to forgive and reconcile.

“The last time I saw him, in an extraordinary turn of events was I ran into him the day that our friend, Elijah Cummings had died, and we embraced on the steps of the U.S. Capitol, and I never got to see him personally again.”

Yusuf Hakeem, a current Tennessee Representative says they first met at his office in Atlanta.

His first impression of Lewis was that he wanted the best for everyone.

“He became a role model, an example of what to be and how to be if that’s the kind of person you want to be.”

Yusuf says John’s death brought him to tears because of his inspiring life and commitment to other people.

“He spoke truth to power and he didn’t just leave it like that, you know some people get to that point and they think that’s all there is to it, but he followed that up with action in regards to the Voting Rights Act and actually voting. And I think, what our young people need to understand is that you follow up your protest with action.”

John Lewis will be missed by his family, friends, colleagues, and admirers all across the country.

Reporting in Chattanooga, Bekah Birdsall, News 12 Now.