NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) - Public Works crews installed temporary Rep. John Lewis Way signage on Fifth Avenue Thursday, after the street was renamed for the late congressman and civil rights leader.

Fifth Avenue was the site of numerous lunch counter sit-ins in the early days of the Civil Rights movement. Rep. Lewis took part in many of the sit-ins while he was a student at Fisk University and American Baptist Theological Seminary.

Fifth Avenue was renamed Rep. John Lewis Way between Jefferson Street to Oak Street at the Nashville City Cemetery.

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“This is a fitting tribute to Rep. Lewis, and a great day for Nashville in honoring his life and legacy,” said Metro Councilmember At-Large Zulfat Suara, chair of the Rep. John Lewis Way Committee and representative of the Council’s Minority Caucus.

Metro Public Works installed temporary signage on Thursday following Metro Council’s approval in November to change the name of Fifth Avenue to Rep. John Lewis Way in memory of the late Civil Rights leader and member of the U.S. House of Representatives who began his Civil Rights journey while a student in Nashville.

Permanent signage will be installed in July, coinciding with the anniversary of his death. An initial celebration set for February was postponed due to the pandemic. Lewis passed away on July 17, 2020.

“We will have a formal dedication in July, hopefully when it is safer to gather as a community to fully pay tribute to Rep. Lewis, his days in Nashville and his contributions to civil rights,” said Suara.

Lewis began his lifelong crusade for civil rights and civic justice in Nashville. He was a leader in the historic lunch county sit-ins that led to Nashville becoming the first southern city to start the desegregation of public places.

In 1961, he represented the Nashville group of the burgeoning civil rights movement as one of the 13 original “Freedom Riders.”

Later Lewis embarked on a career in public service, first as an Atlanta City Council member, then as a Congressman representing Georgia’s Fifth District.


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