In Memory of Anthony Lewis:  Defender of the freedom of speech, civil liberties and the rule of law


By Professor Nadine Strossen
By Professor Vincent Blasi

Writings of Anthony Lewis

New York Times, March 25, 2013 (Opens in new window)






Remembrance of Anthony Lewis by Nadine Strossen, Professor of Law, New York Law School; Former President, American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) 1991 – 2008.

I am grateful to the Johnson County First Amendment Foundation for posting tributes to Tony Lewis on its Website, and to Scott DuPree for inviting me to make a contribution.  In 2009, I had the unforgettable opportunity to participate with Tony in a discussion of First Amendment issues as a celebration of the Foundation’s 10th Anniversary.   Of the thousands (no exaggeration) of public presentations I made during my 18-year tenure as ACLU President, that one stands out as one of the most memorable and enjoyable for several reasons, including the importance of the occasion and the sponsor.  However, in this context, let me single out the special nature of my co-panelist, Anthony Lewis, and the format he and I devised, in consultation with Bill Hays and Lori Weiss.   Tony and I had shared the podium many times, starting back in the 1980’s, on many topics and in many different formats.  But for this special event we devised a format that was then unique in my experience, and has remained so.  We dispensed with formal opening remarks, and we even dispensed with a moderator asking us questions or fielding audience questions.  Instead, we simply sat in chairs on a dais, side by side, and had a conversation with each other, just as longtime colleagues or friends would do on their own – but in this case, with an audience listening in.  Having avidly read essentially all of Tony’s writings – his award-winning books and Pulitzer-Prize-winning reports and columns - and having heard him speak on countless occasions, I was very familiar with his ideas and therefore could hone in on salient points of both agreement and disagreement.  The time flew by!  I only hope it was half as interesting, informative, and enjoyable an experience for the audience as it was for us two participants!

Tony Lewis’s writings were not only illuminating; they also had actual positive impacts in promoting justice, making concrete differences in the lives of real people.  His first Pulitzer Prize was for a series of articles about a former Navy employee, Abraham Chasanow, who had lost his position after being unjustly accused of being a security risk; when the Navy cleared and reinstated Mr. Chasanow, he gave the credit to Tony’s writings. 

Tony’s unswerving commitment to civil liberties made him an ACLU hero, and one of the highlights of my ACLU Presidency was in 2003, when I presented to him the ACLU’s Medal of Liberty, the organization’s top award.  It is bestowed every two years, with a $25,000 stipend – to mark its importance – for either a single achievement or for lifetime contributions.  In Tony Lewis’s case, the Medal was presented for a lifetime of achievements – to date – as he went on making enormous contributions. 

One of Anthony Lewis’s most special qualities, which unfortunately is too rare, is that he neutrally criticized all officials who violated civil liberties, regardless of their political party or ideology.  As this is the ACLU’s approach too, I know how hard it can be to criticize the civil liberties defaults of a Bill Clinton or Barack Obama, thus arousing the ire of one’s liberal friends and allies – too many of whom seem to engage in wishful thinking in protesting that the violations aren’t so serious.  But Tony never pulled any punches.  He appropriately lambasted the Clinton Administration for a series of anti-civil-libertarian measures including the 1996 Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, which foreshadowed the post-911 Patriot Act in vastly and unjustifiably increasing government surveillance power in the name of countering terrorism.  Likewise, Tony was an early and persistent critic of the post-911 violations as well, when too many folks were willing to trust the government due to their fear of terrorism.   While terrorism is certainly to be feared, so too is the loss of liberty – whether it comes at the hands of Al Qaeda or the U.S. government, and whether from a Democrat or a Republican in the Oval Office.  Tony never lost sight of these fundamental facts, nor did he ever cease raising his influential voice to remind the rest of us. 

While Tony’s physical presence will be missed, his voice will not be missed, as he has left a huge legacy of lucid, illuminating, and inspiring prose, which will continue to galvanize advocates of justice and to gall perpetrators of injustice.

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Remembrance of Anthony Lewis by Vincent Blasi, Corliss Lamont Professor of Civil Liberties, Columbia Law School

I picture him sitting taking notes.  At a conference.  In my office.  At a table in the Journalism School classroom we shared for 23 years during the segments when I was conducting the class.  Always taking notes.  He was a listener.  Probably the most inquisitive person I have ever known.  A sponge absorbing whatever he saw or heard or read.  No one has ever been as interested in what I was saying.  No one.  And I'm sure that he made hundreds of other people experience that unique type of gratification.  He wanted to know.

He absolutely loved to teach.  Year after year the students could sense it.  Very quickly each year his status as celebrity and role model took a back seat in the minds of our students to the urgency of the teaching project at hand.  He asked much of his students:  Difficult reading that none had bargained for when they chose to go to journalism school.  Responsive answers to probing questions.  Serious, detailed attention to the ethical obligations of reporters.  Most of all he asked our students to appreciate the importance of the career they had chosen and the responsibilities that follow from that importance.  He was a demanding teacher and the students loved him for it.  His obvious passion for the subject brought out the best in them.

He was a proud man, in the best possible way.  He was proud of his profession and of his achievements as a journalist, but also those of his colleagues at the Times and elsewhere.  He was proud of the gift he had for telling important, inspiring or infuriating stories in a way that reached and stayed with his readers. He was proud of his country, not least for its unusual system of judicially enforced and elaborated constitutional rights.  He was proud of the heroes he found among ordinary people in the stories he covered.  He was proud of his fine singing voice, which he sometimes put on display in our class whenever some Gilbert and Sullivan lyric could plausibly be linked to a point we were making.  He was proud of the newspaper he worked for.  Most of all, he was proud of his wife Margie, the light of his life.

I only wish he could have known how his death would evoke such a remarkable outpouring of affection and appreciation.   He seems to symbolize for many a life well lived in the profession of journalism.   THAT story needs to be told, and he told it by the way he went about his business, from the Harvard Crimson in the late 40s to the Columbia Journalism School and the pages of the New York Review of Books over sixty years later, with all the years and places, events and columns – and notepads – in between.  

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Writings of Anthony Lewis:

Gideon's trumpet
Author: Lewis, Anthony, 1927-2013.
Publication: New York, Random House 1964 


Freedom for the thought that we hate: a biography of the First Amendment
Author: Lewis, Anthony, 1927-2013.
Publication: New York : Basic Books, 2007


Make no law: the Sullivan case and the First Amendment
Author: Lewis, Anthony, 1927-2013.
Publication: New York : Random House, 1991


Portrait of a decade; the second American revolution
Author: Lewis, Anthony, 1927-2013.
Publication: New York, Random House 1964


Written into history: Pulitzer Prize reporting of the twentieth century from the New York times
Author: Lewis, Anthony
Publication: New York : Times Books/Henry Holt, 2001


The Supreme Court and how it works; the story of the Gideon case
Author: Lewis, Anthony, 1927-2013.
Publication: New York, Random House 1966


Clarence Earl Gideon and the Supreme Court
Author: Lewis, Anthony, 1927-2013.
Publication: New York, Random House 1972, 1966


The second American revolution: a first-hand account of the struggle for civil rights
Author: Lewis, Anthony, 1927-2013.
Publication: London, Faber, 1966, 1964


Glory and terror: the growing nuclear danger
Author: Weinberg, Steven, 1933-; Lewis, Anthony,
Publication: New York : New York Review Books, 2004


The Supreme Court: process and change
Author: Lewis, Anthony, 1927-2013.
Publication: Iowa City, College of Law, State University of Iowa, 1963


The press - its legal freedoms and responsibilities
Author: Lewis, Anthony, 1927-2013.; Muller, Steven
Publication: Baltimore, Johns Hopkins University
Document: English : Sound Recording : Non-music : Lectures, speeches :  Cassette tape


Anthony Lewis papers, 1941-1975 (bulk 1963-1974)
Author: Lewis, Anthony, 1927-2013.; Lewis, Anthony,; Lewis, Anthony,
Document: English : Archival Material


A crise da energia
Author: Ward, Barbara, 1914-1981.; Dubos, René J.; Lewis, Anthony,
Publication: Lisboa : Publicações Dom Quixote, 1974


Papers of Paul A. Freund
Author: Freund, Paul A. 1908-1992.; Powell, Lewis F.,; Griswold, Erwin N., and others
Document: English : Archival Material


Lovejoy: excerpts from a memoir
Author: Chandler, Bruce, 1945-; Lewis, Anthony,; Lovejoy, Joseph C.
Publication: Boston : Heron Press, 1988


Bantam matrix editions
Author: Lewis, Anthony, Publication: New York : Bantam Books 1900s-
Document: English : Serial Publication : Monographic series

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