The late Lillian Miles Lewis with her husband Rep. John Lewis and the late Sen. Ted Kennedy. Lillian Lewis died Dec. 31, 2012. (File Photo)
ATLANTA, Ga. -- Lillian Lewis was best known publicly as the wife of Atlanta's longtime Congressman, John Lewis (D-Georgia). Her funeral Monday provided a backstage look at the woman who was more than the woman behind the man.
The sanctuary at Ebenzer Baptist Church filled with members of Congress -- Atlanta politicians and luminaries from the civil rights movement.
"The world celebrates this peace loving, freedom fighting woman," Rev. Jesse Jackson told reporters outside the Auburn Avenue church where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was co-pastor when he died in 1968. Dr. King mentored Lewis before his death.
Lillian Miles married John Lewis the year of Dr. King's murder. Mrs. Lewis was remembered as a woman who helped guide Lewis's transition into politics-- observed firsthand by their friend, former Atlanta mayor Andrew Young.
"Throughout your life, and throughout the partnership that you and Lillian had, you have helped to shape our world far more than any of us can imagine," Young told Lewis from the pulpit.
"I doubt any member of Congress had a better-informed spouse," said Christine King Farris, Dr. King's sister.
Lillian Lewis collected many close friends during her 73 years. Among them was Anita Hill -- the law professor made famous as the sexual harassment accuser of Supreme Court justice Clarence Thomas.
"Lillian Lewis was a real friend, not the new age / social media kind of friend. She was a friend in public. And in private. And you don't always get that," said Hill, who is now a professor at Brandeis University.
The funeral of Lillian Lewis was also a celebration of the life and career of John Lewis -- a man now grieving the loss of an important source of his strength.