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Emory Creates John Lewis Chair in Civil Rights, Social Justice
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Thanks to an anonymous donation of $1.5 million, a new chair has been created at Emory University School of Law.

Summary: An anonymous donor has given $1.5 million to Emory Law School, which will be used to create the John Lewis Chair in Civil Rights and Social Justice.

According to the Emory News Center, Emory University School of Law has received a generous $1.5 million donation to create a John Lewis Chair in Civil Rights and Social Justice.


The anonymous gift will fund a professorship that will allow Emory Law to undergo a national search for a scholar with a proven academic profile of distinction, as well as a demonstrated goal of promoting the rule of law through the study of civil rights. The school has committed to raising another $500,000 to complete funding for the John Lewis Chair in Civil Rights and Social Justice.

Robert Schapiro, the dean of the law school and the Asa Griggs Candler Professor of Law, said, “This gift will allow us to perform a nationwide search and name a professor who will further scholarship on the issues of civil rights and social justice. Through this chair, we are honored to recognize Congressman Lewis’s historic achievements in these vital areas.”

Harvard received suggestions from the Office for Civil Rights for new procedures.

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Lewis has spent his life fighting for human rights and civil liberties. In 1963, when he was just 23, he was a keynote speaker at the March on Washington. During the peak of the Civil Rights movement, from 1963 to 1966, Lewis was named the chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), which he helped create. In 1965, he was beaten as he headed a group of protestors attempting to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge for a voting rights march. The group was marching from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama. Additionally, Lewis has served as a representative in Congress in Georgia’s Fifth Congressional District since 1987. According to, Lewis is currently working on a series of graphic novels about his life.

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Joella Hricik, Emory Law’s associate dean for development and alumni relations, said that the anonymous donor stated that the recent anniversaries of civil rights milestones, such as the March on Washington, the enactment of the Voting and Civil Rights Act, and the Selma march influenced the timing of the donation.

Many law students were allowed to postpone their exams due to stress they felt after the Eric Garner and Michael Brown grand jury proceedings.

The donor said, “John Lewis exemplifies the values of courage, commitment, dignity, humanity, fairness and equal opportunity that were and are the hallmarks of the movement. Congressman Lewis is an inspiration to us as he continues to speak out against injustice and to fight for equality and civil rights. Atlanta holds an important place in the history of civil rights in the U.S. and John Lewis is a central figure in that history; we hope that a professorship at Emory Law School in his name will in some small way help to continue the good and great work that he has done these last 50 years.” According to, Lewis is the last living speaker from the March on Washington.

Schapiro commented, “Honoring John Lewis – someone who is so important to the conversation on civil rights – is a wonderful way to inspire the Emory community with our ongoing commitment to social justice and academic excellence. The gift builds on Emory’s history as a leader in civil rights and social justice, dating as far back as the 1962 lawsuit that helped integrate private colleges and universities in Georgia.”

Congressman Lewis said that he was honored to have the professorship established in his name, and that he looks forward to strengthening his relationship with the university. Emory University President James Wagner said, “Congressman John Lewis has exemplified profound understanding of the moral imperative of justice and has demonstrated the courage it often takes for a society to abide by the rule of law. Emory University is deeply honored that the congressman has allowed us to recognize his contributions to American social justice through the naming of this professorship. The John Lewis Professorship will both honor a great American and remind future Emory-educated attorneys of the responsibility bequeathed to them as servants of the law.”

Martin Luther King Jr.’s children are still involved in a legal fight about his physical property.

According to Hricik, the remaining funds should be raised in the next six to twelve months. The law school will seek donations from law firms, corporations, and individual donors.

Lewis was awarded an honorary doctor of laws degree during last year’s commencement ceremony, during which he served as the keynote speaker.

During the ceremony, Lewis commented on the role the law has played in the civil rights movement in the United States. He said, “Under the rule of law, we have witnessed what I like to call a nonviolent revolution in America—a revolution of values, a revolution of ideas. Our country is a better country and our people are a better people because of the law. So go out there and do your best to seek justice. And never, ever turn back; never, ever give up; but keep the faith and continue to work for what is right, for what is fair, and for what is just.”

Source: Emory News Center

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