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The John R. Lewis Professorship in Pathology

School of Medicine

Established in 2022 by anonymous donors.

Congressman JOHN R. LEWIS (1940-2020) was a key figure in some of the most pivotal moments of the civil rights movement. He was the face of the Nashville, Tennessee Student Movement; chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee; an original Freedom Rider; and one of the keynote speakers at the historic 1963 March on Washington, D.C. Mr. Lewis served as executive director of the Voter Education Project; as associate director of ACTION—the federal agency that oversaw the Peace Corps and VISTA; and as a member of the Atlanta, Georgia, City Council. He authored several best-selling books, including the March comic book trilogy and his inspiring autobiography, Walking with the Wind. Congressman Lewis was a staunch and unwavering believer and advocate of nonviolent protest. The recipient of more than 50 honorary degrees, he was called a “saint” by Time magazine and the “conscience of the Congress” by his colleagues in the United States Congress, where he spent more than 30 years steadfastly defending and building upon key civil rights gains of the 1960s. Even in the face of hatred and violence, and more than 45 arrests, Congressman Lewis remained resolute in his commitment to what he called “good trouble.” The defining moment of Congressman Lewis’s life occurred on Sunday, March 7, 1965. He and more than 600 demonstrators intended to march from Selma, Alabama, to the state capitol in Montgomery, 50 miles away, in support of equal voting rights. Ordered to disperse by Alabama state troopers, the demonstrators knelt in prayer instead. Through clouds of tear gas, the troopers advanced, trampling the marchers under horses and hitting them with nightsticks. Congressman Lewis, having been struck on the head and beaten repeatedly, crumpled to the ground with a fractured skull. That day became known as “Bloody Sunday.” The brutal response to what was a peaceful, non-violent demonstration helped to galvanize public opposition to racial segregation when the horrific scenes were televised nationwide. The landmark Voting Rights Act, which strengthened the federal government’s ability to prevent state and local governments from denying citizens the right to vote because of race, was signed into law on August 6, 1965. Congressman Lewis, who was born near Troy, Alabama, in 1940 and spent the majority of his life in Atlanta, was elected to represent Georgia in the United States House of Representatives in 1986. During his more than three decades in Congress, he garnered the support needed to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1991, sponsored the legislation that created the 54-mile-long Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail, and worked for more than a decade to establish the National Museum of African American History and Culture on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. In 2010, Congressman Lewis was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom—the nation’s highest civilian honor—by President Barack Obama. Congressman Lewis was a member of the House Committee on Ways and Means Subcommittee on Health, where he authored the essential community providers bill to address the issue of health disparities by ensuring affordable, accessible, and quality health care for all. In 2000, Congressman Lewis was the primary sponsor of legislation to elevate what was then the National Institutes of Health Office of Research on Minority Health to become the National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities—a name the Congressman chose to reflect the importance he saw in building the nation’s research capacity and infrastructure to address pervasive health disparities among communities of color. The legislation created an endowment fund to facilitate minority health and health disparities research, increase the diversity and strength of the scientific workforce, and enhance the recruitment and retention of individuals from communities under-represented in science. The Center has since been elevated to an institute. In 2022, Congress passed the John Lewis National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities Research Endowment Revitalization Act, to increase investments in universities conducting critical research into minority health disparities. In 2019, Congressman Lewis was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and passed away on July 17, 2020, at the age of 80. Befitting his significant impact on 20th-century United States history, Congressman Lewis was the first black lawmaker to lie in state in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda. Just a few months earlier, he had once again crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge, as he had done every year for decades. “Speak up,” he exhorted the young people gathered around him on the bridge that day. “Speak out. Get in the way. Get in good trouble, necessary trouble.” Always wanting to teach and inspire young people, Congressman Lewis left a message to be published following his death. “Though I may not be here with you,” he wrote, “I urge you to answer the highest calling of your heart and stand up for what you truly believe in. In my life, I have done all I can to demonstrate that the way of peace, the way of love, and nonviolence is the more excellent way. Now it is your turn to let freedom ring.” Following his death, in 2021 a statue of Congressman Lewis was erected in Cook Park in Atlanta, and in 2022 the city’s main Post Office was renamed in his honor. Troy University (formerly Troy State College) in Alabama, which had refused to acknowledge Lewis’s inquiry about admission in 1957, renamed one of its central buildings after him. Schools in Georgia, Virginia, and Washington, D.C., have been renamed in his honor, and universities in California, Georgia, and Louisiana have created programs and schools bearing his name and offering curricula that educate current and future leaders about civic engagement and social justice.

Held by Clayton C. Yates

CLAYTON C. YATES, Ph.D. is the inaugural John R. Lewis Professor in Pathology. In 2022, he was recruited to the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine to join the Division of Urologic Pathology in the Department of Pathology where he serves as the Director for Translational Health Disparities and Global Health Equity Research. He holds joint appointments in the Department of Oncology, where he serves as the Program Co-Leader for Cancer Genetics and Epigenetics, and in the Department of Urology. Dr. Yates is an internationally recognized expert in health disparity research, cell biology, molecular biology, and molecular pathology. Prior to coming to Johns Hopkins, he was Professor of Biology in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, and Director of the Center for Biomedical Research at Tuskegee University in Alabama. He also held adjunct faculty positions in the Department of Biological Sciences at Clark Atlanta University in Georgia, and the Department of Pathology at the University of Alabama in Birmingham (UAB). Dr. Yates received both his Bachelor of Science degree and Master of Science degree from Tuskegee University. He earned his doctoral degree from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine in molecular pathology, as well as a certificate of training in Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine from the McGowan Institute of Regenerative Medicine. He completed his postdoctoral fellowship at the Emory University School of Medicine Department of Urology before joining the faculty at Tuskegee University.

Dr. Yates is internationally recognized for his research. Cell-MENTOR—an online resource from Cell Press and Cell Signaling Technology—recognized Dr. Yates among the 100 most inspiring Black Scientists in America. His research focuses on prostate and breast cancers, particularly in African Americans. His laboratory established several cancer cell line-based models derived from African American patients and these are used by many scientists today to study molecular events that lead to prostate cancer development and metastasis. Additionally, Dr. Yates identified a subtype of breast cancer called “Quadruple Negative Breast Cancer,” which is more prevalent in women of African ancestry. His research, which incorporates novel genetic admixture analyses, identified a specific ancestry-associated, immune-related signature in both breast and prostate cancers.  Using this signature, Dr. Yates’s team was able to identify and develop a novel therapeutic that targets a specific immune cell, termed the tumor-associated macrophage, that contributes to increased tumor aggressiveness and therapeutic resistance. An impactful educator, Dr. Yates has trained more than 50 Ph.D. and master’s-level students, and postdoctoral trainees. He has received numerous honors and awards, has authored more than 80 peer-reviewed publications, and serves on the editorial board of Scientific Reports. Dr. Yates is Co-Director of the Transatlantic Prostate Cancer Consortium, which focuses on understanding the tumor biology in native African men in Nigeria. He co-chaired the April 2022 American Association for Cancer Research Conference in New Orleans, and is the Past Chair of the Minorities in Cancer Research Council within the American Association for Cancer Research, which serves more than 7,000 minority cancer-focused scientists.