As Told To

Happy birthday, Martin Luther King Jr., from John Lewis

On King’s 90th birthday, the civil rights icon and Georgia legislator pours out his heart to his mentor

Before U.S. Rep. John Lewis, the 17-term congressman from Georgia, became famous as a civil rights luminary, he was a 17-year-old student seeking advice from Martin Luther King Jr.

King answered the letter, and they soon began a relationship that changed both their lives.

So on King’s 90th birthday on Tuesday in Lewis’ Washington, D.C., office, the congressman shared his love, respect and admiration for his mentor and friend who “changed the world.”

Lewis, 78, maintains bottomless respect for King, whom he still refers to as Dr. King, because they marched, were arrested and got beaten during the civil rights struggles of the 1960s. Yet, Lewis knows the struggle continues:

“Dr. King, your teaching is still alive. We gotta get more of our young people, our children, to embrace it. And get out there and push and pull and to never give up, to never give in, but to keep the faith and to keep their eyes on the prize.”