Congressman John Lewis will be laid to rest Thursday in Atlanta and buried alongside his wife, Lillian, who died eight years ago. Family, colleagues and friends will fill Ebenezer Baptist Church where his mentor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once pastored. This marks the final homegoing celebration, following a week of others in Troy, Selma and Montgomery, Alabama, and Washington, D.C. Thousands of admirers lined streets in every city as Lewis’ hearse passed by, holding signs and honoring his mantra: “Get in good trouble, necessary trouble and help redeem the soul of America.”
All along the trip to Lewis’ resting place has been a young man who has ridden and stood by him for more than 21 years. Like John-Miles, Lewis’s son, Michael Collins was Lewis’ other son in spirit while he officially served as the congressman’s chief of staff since 2000. A graduate of Morehouse College, and a native of Boston, Collins began his career with Rep. Lewis in 1999 as his floor assistant, while he also received a Master of Social Work from Boston College and an MBA from Emory University.
Thanks to the Congressional Black Caucus, a cadre of African Americans have been tapped to serve on Capitol Hill where congressional leaders are often criticized for their lack of diversity. Collins was among them, and wherever you saw Congressman Lewis, Collins was never far behind, beside or leading him.
It was Collins who had to correct the false story that Lewis passed away in early July, and it was Collins who reached out to members of Congress and others to let them know of his death on July 17 from pancreatic cancer. Collins’ name is called out by many who are offering words of condolences to the family and staff of the late congressman. And he is often seen in the background in the media coverage of the hearse, watching over the congressman’s body as he did for the past 21 years. A close look at their relationship is reflected in Dawn Porter’s documentary, “John Lewis: Good Trouble.”
It’s at times like these when a good leader is shown to us by their ability to follow and to lead when called upon. We predict that Collins, who’s enviable opportunity to have walked with John Lewis for the past 21 years, will serve us all well going forward. We have not spoken to him, but we honor him and thank him for his service, and we wish him well!