McArthur Douglas, a volunteer chaperone with the Project Grad Brother To Brother mentoring group at Austin-East High School, poses with U.S. Rep. John Lewis during a trip to Washington, D.C. in 2011.
The recent death of John Lewis, a longtime U.S. Representative and an icon of the Civil Rights Movement, brought back a special memory for one member of the Austin-East High School community.
Jesse Jones is a Project Grad Student and Family Support Coach at Austin-East, and in 2011 he helped lead a trip to Washington, D.C. for eight A-E students who were part of a mentoring group called Brother To Brother.
The trip was sponsored by Carolyn and Will Minter, and Jones said the group met civil rights and political leaders from both near and far. In addition to Lewis, Rep. Charles Rangel of New York, and Rev. Jesse Jackson, the group unexpectedly met Knoxville Mayor Daniel Brown in a hallway.
The chance meeting with Brown reinforced a message that Jones had emphasized to students throughout the trip, about the importance of carrying themselves with respect.
“(The mayor) stopped on a dime and took a picture with our young men,” Jones recalled, “and I looked around and I said, ‘You see that? … You never know who knows you.’”
One of the most vivid memories was seeing Lewis, a Georgia Congressman who passed away on July 17 and whose body lay in state at the U.S. Capitol last week.
The congressman posed for a picture with McArthur Douglas, a volunteer chaperone on the trip, and Jones said the group understood that they were in the presence of greatness, even though Lewis didn’t carry himself with arrogance.
Jones said the Congressman’s legacy was one of boldness in standing up for what was right: “He was a bold and brave fighter for civil rights who wasn’t afraid, as you heard, to get into good trouble.”