Photo: George Burns/Harpo Studios
Elwin Wilson says he knows exactly what happened to Rep. Lewis that day because he is the man who beat him. After years of regret, Elwin apologized to the congressman in 2009, and today, Elwin speaks out against bigotry and intolerance. "I know this takes a lot of courage on your part to show your face to the world and to say, 'I am the man who beat you,'" Oprah says.
For years, Elwin, an admitted former member of the Ku Klux Klan, says he prayed that he would meet the man he attacked at the bus station.
"What happened was, after he was beat and bloody and all, the policeman came up and asked him, he said, 'Do y'all want to take out warrants? [Press] charges,'" Elwin says. "He said, 'No.' He said, 'We're not here to cause trouble.' He said, 'We're here for people to love each other.'"
Rep. Lewis' decision not to press charges and his declaration of peace struck Elwin. "The thought, it come in my mind so many times, what he said he wasn't out to harm nobody," Elwin says.
When Elwin came to the congressman's office in 2009, the two men made amends. "He said, 'I attacked you, and I'm sorry. I want to apologize. Will you accept my apology?' And I said, 'Yes.' And he gave me a hug, and he started crying. I hugged him back, and I shed some tears also," Rep. Lewis says. "He's the first and only person who has ever apologized to me."