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‘He’d been through the fire’: John Lewis, civil rights giant, remembered

Biographer Raymond Arsenault discusses the man who marched with King, then became the conscience of Congress

When he was a Ku Klux Klansman in South Carolina, Elwin Wilson helped carry out a vicious assault that left John Lewis with bruised ribs, cuts to his face and a deep **** on the back of his head. Half a century later, Wilson sought and received Lewis’s forgiveness. Then both men appeared on Oprah Winfrey’s TV show.

Wilson looked overwhelmed, panicked by the bright lights of the studio, where nearly 180 of Lewis’s fellow civil rights activists had gathered. But then Lewis smiled, leaned over, gently held Wilson’s hand and insisted: “He’s my brother.” There was not a dry eye in the house.

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