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  Man who beat civil rights leader asks forgiveness
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ContributorThomas Walker 
Last EditedThomas Walker  Feb 09, 2009 03:51pm
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MediaWebsite - Yahoo News
News DateMonday, February 9, 2009 09:00:00 PM UTC0:0
DescriptionWASHINGTON – Elwin Wilson was an unabashed racist, the sort who once hung a black doll from a noose outside his home. John Lewis was a young civil rights leader bent on changing laws, if not hearts and minds, even if it cost him his life.

They faced each other at a South Carolina bus station during a protest in 1961. Wilson joined a white gang that jeered Lewis, attacked him and left him bloodied on the ground.

Forty-eight years later, the men met again — this time so Wilson could apologize to Lewis and express regret for his hatred. Lewis, now a congressman from Atlanta, greeted his former tormentor at his Capitol Hill office.

"I just told him that I was sorry," Wilson, 72, said in a telephone interview Wednesday as he traveled home to Rock Hill, S.C. For years, he said, he tried to block the incident out of his mind "and couldn't do it."

Lewis said Wilson is the first person involved in the dozens of attacks against him during the civil rights era to step forward and apologize. When they met Tuesday, Lewis offered forgiveness without hesitation.
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