At the funeral service of Rep. John R. Lewis today, July 20, 2020, President William J. Clinton said of Lewis:
Then there was Bloody Sunday. He figured he might get arrested and this is really important not to, for all the rhapsodic things we all believe about John Lewis, he had a really good mind and he was always trying to figure out how can I make the most of every single moment?
So he’s getting ready to march from Selma to Montgomery. Wants to get across the bridge. What do we remember? He made kind of quite a strange figure. He had a trench coat and a backpack. Now, young people would probably think that’s no big deal, but there weren’t that many backpacks back then and you never saw anybody in a trench coat looking halfway dressed up with a backpack. But John put an apple, an orange, a toothbrush, toothpaste in the backpack to take care of his body because he figured he would get arrested. And two books, one a book by Richard Hofstadter on America’s political tradition to feed his mind. And one, the autobiography of Thomas Merton, a Roman Catholic Trappist monk, who was the son of itinerant artists making an astonishing personal transformation.
What’s a young guy who’s about to get his brains beat out and planning on going to prison and doing, taking that? I think he figured that if Thomas Merton could find his way and keep his faith and believe in the future, he John Lewis could too.