PRESS RELEASE from the Office of Rep. John Lewis (D-GA)

March 8, 2007
Rep. John Lewis Had No Intention to Endorse Obama or Clinton in Selma

The facts surrounding Rep. John Lewis’s pilgrimage to Selma, Alabama, his presence at Brown Chapel AME church in Selma, and his contact with President Bill Clinton have been misreported. He is issuing this statement to set the record straight:

My journey to Selma, Alabama was a spiritual mission to commemorate the 42nd anniversary of Bloody Sunday and to reconnect with the central purpose of my public life, formed during the early years of my involvement with the Civil Rights Movement, to be a voice for justice and human rights.

Returning to Selma has been very important to me, and I have done so every year except one since 1965. This year I led the 8th Congressional Civil Rights Pilgrimage in conjunction with The Faith & Politics Institute to historic civil rights sites in Birmingham, Montgomery, and Selma. I have led this kind of pilgrimage in the last eight sessions of Congress. These efforts are non-partisan in nature and every single member of Congress is invited to participate, without regard to election politics.

During the Movement, Brown Chapel AME Church was a major center of activity, but the First Baptist Church also played a significant role. And when more room was needed at either church to accommodate Dr. King, any other minister, or Movement speaker, both churches opened their doors and those speakers would rotate between the two churches to make sure everyone heard the same message.

So the collaboration of these two churches in the Jubilee ceremonies to bring Sens. Obama and Clinton to Selma should not be viewed as competitive or partisan at all and is entirely consistent with the Movement experience. Members of Congress on the pilgrimage were free to choose which service they would attend. However, most of them had never been to Selma and simply followed my lead to attend the Brown Chapel AME service, as I have since 1965. Their participation should not be viewed as showing a preference for either candidate.

Lastly, and most importantly, at no time was I ever prepared to endorse any candidate in the 2008 race for the presidency. I have been enthusiastic about the Obama candidacy and the Clinton candidacy because they both represent the kinds of accomplishments people sacrificed and died for in the Civil Rights Movement. But I have never at any time been poised to endorse anyone.

I think it is much too early in the election season to make that kind of decision. I will be evaluating each contender carefully, giving them time to express their commitment to the issues as the election season continues. At some point, I will have an executive session with myself and determine who I will endorse for president. Though President Clinton did call me, he did not at any time discuss my intention to publicly endorse either candidate. He put no pressure on me whatsoever to cast my lot with Sen. Clinton or to hold off on the endorsement of Sen. Obama. Any reports to the contrary are inaccurate.