Legacy of Congressman John Lewis lives on, say local activists, NAACP chair

Local groups work to protect hard-fought voting rights

Many Black people in San Antonio say the influence of the late U.S. Rep. John Lewis, a civil rights icon, will live on across the country.

The legacy of Congressman John Lewis, the last of the civil rights icons, will live on across the country, including right here in San Antonio as local groups work to fight for voting rights.

“We’re beginning to see the need to fight those battles again and that’s most regrettable,” said Dr. Gregory Hudspeth, the chair of the local NAACP chapter.

The same type of battles that Hudspeth said he remembers his father took on in the 1950's and 1960's.

Except now, he said, the NAACP is fighting voter suppression and the dismantling of the 1965 Voting Rights Act championed by Lewis and his mentor, Martin Luther King Jr.

Pharaoh Clark, an activist with Reliable Revolutionaries, a civil rights organization, said, “Now is the time for the torch to be passed off.”

Clark and some of the group's founding members were in the nation's capital for a march demanding a Congressional investigation into the murder of Vanessa Guillen, an Army specialist at Fort Hood. 

RELATED: Vanessa Guillen: A timeline of events and everything we know about her disappearance

They took to the streets on the morning of John Lewis’s funeral.

“We were able to honor his memory, honor his legacy by doing what he called, ‘creating good trouble,’” Clark said.

Valerie Reiffert apparently has that same spirit.

Reiffert is one of the Radical Registars, a group that has registered hundreds of voters since the idea was born during recent protests in downtown San Antonio.

Reiffert said she's always been the type of person who stands up and says something, like Lewis urged others to do when they see a wrong that needs to be made right.

"I'll see what everybody's thinking because they don't want to and I've always just felt it extremely necessary to do that," Reiffert said.

Reiffert said she believes there are other John Lewis's out there.

“They are the radical registrars. They are the reliable revolutionaries,” Reiffert said. “They are everybody who has decided that this is bigger than themselves and that they want to help.”

RELATED: Civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis lies in state at Capitol

About the Authors:

Jessie Degollado has been with KSAT since 1984. She is a general assignments reporter who covers a wide variety of stories. Raised in Laredo and as an anchor/reporter at KRGV in the Rio Grande Valley, Jessie is especially familiar with border and immigration issues. In 2007, Jessie also was inducted into the San Antonio Women's Hall of Fame.