Lewis joined King and four other civil rights leaders in organizing the 1963 March on Washington.
He spoke to the vast crowd just before King delivered his epochal “I Have a Dream” speech.
A 23-year-old firebrand, Lewis toned down his intended remarks at the insistence of others, dropping a reference to a “scorched earth” march through the South and scaling back criticisms of President John Kennedy.
It was a potent speech nonetheless, in which he vowed: “By the forces of our demands, our determination and our numbers, we shall splinter the segregated South into a thousand pieces and put them together in an image of God and democracy.”
It was almost immediately, and forever, overshadowed by the words of King, the man who had inspired him to activism.
Lewis was born on Feb. 21, 1940, outside the town of Troy, in Pike County, Alabama. He grew up on his family’s farm and attended segregated public schools.
As a boy, he wanted to be a minister, and practiced his oratory on the family chickens.
Denied a library card because of the color of his skin, he became an avid reader, and could cite obscure historical dates and details even in his later years.
He was a teenager when he first heard King preaching on the radio.
They met when Lewis was seeking support to become the first Black student at Alabama’s segregated Troy State University.