Troy University Libraries receive gift in memory of John Lewis

Civil Rights Icon and Georgia Congressman John R. Lewis, a Pike County native, passed away in July.

Civil Rights Icon and Georgia Congressman John R. Lewis, a Pike County native, passed away in July.

The Troy University Libraries have received a $5,000 donation from Constellation, an Exelon Company, in memory of civil rights icon and Congressman John R. Lewis.

Lewis, who was born in Pike County and often referred to as “The Boy from Troy” by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., died on July 17 at age 80. He served more than 30 years as the Representative of Georgia’s 5th Congressional District.

Constellation, an Exelon Company, is a leading competitive energy company providing power, natural gas, renewable energy and energy management products and services for homes and business across the continental United States.

Company officials saw news coverage of a memorial service held for Lewis in Trojan Arena on the Troy Campus and wanted to honor the late Congressman’s legacy, according to Dr. Christopher Shaffer, the University’s Dean of Library Services.

“They saw an article regarding the memorial service and knew that libraries and education were important to Congressman Lewis,” Dr. Shaffer said. “They wanted to pay tribute to his legacy in a meaningful way in his hometown.”

Dr. Shaffer said the funds will help further the libraries’ programming related to civil rights and human rights.

In the recent past, Troy University Libraries have provided programs on the Holocaust and African American studies, including presentations chronicling the Western experiences of black cowboys by “Cowboy” Mike Searles and events providing teachers with strategies for teaching about the Civil Rights Movement in the classroom. In 2021, the library will become one of 50 U.S. libraries to host “Americans and the Holocaust,” a traveling exhibition from the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.

“We have a history of programming surrounding civil rights and human rights, and this generous donation by Constellation, an Exelon Company, will help us purchase books and resource materials, as well as continue our educational programming,” he said. “This gift honors the legacy of a great man — an icon of the Civil Rights Movement — and will pay great dividends for our students, our University and the community at large.”

Lewis was born the son of sharecroppers on February 21, 1940, outside of Troy, Alabama.  He grew up on his family’s farm and attended segregated public schools in Pike County.  As a young boy, he 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.  In those pivotal moments, he made a decision to become a part of the Civil Rights Movement and he became a vanguard of progressive social movements and the human rights struggle in the United States.

In August, the Troy University Board of Trustees voted to rename historic Bibb Graves Hall on the Troy Campus to John Robert Lewis Hall to honor the memory of the late Congressman.