Michelle Obama Tops John Lewis in School Renaming Vote in Late Congressman's District

Former first lady Michelle Obama won a Georgia county vote to have the local elementary school renamed after her, topping the late congressman John Lewis in his own district.

The Clayton County Board of Education, part of an area within Lewis' longtime 5th Congressional District surrounding much of Atlanta, voted Monday to rename South Clayton Elementary School after Obama. School administrators say they must first receive permission from the family of the former first lady and her husband, former President Barack Obama. But they are hopeful that the Obamas will sign off on the name change because Michelle has ancestral roots in the area dating back several generations.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported Tuesday that South Clayton Elementary is set to be renamed as the Michelle Obama STEM Elementary School. Clayton County board members voted 7 to 2 Monday in favor of selecting the former FLOTUS over Lewis in the honorary process.

"Both of them are great individuals," board chairwoman Jessie Goree told the other board members before the vote was called, the Journal-Constitution reported Monday. "All of us are willing to go one way or the other."

If the Obama family declines the Clayton County offer to rename the school after her, the honor will then be given to the late Democratic congressman.

Lewis died on July 17 from complications tied to pancreatic cancer. The 80-year-old Democratic representative and civil rights icon participated in the 1963 March on Washington. He represented Georgia's 5th Congressional District, which includes Fulton, DeKalb and Clayton counties, from January 1987 until his death this year. Congressional maps show a majority of residents in the district are black and the 5th District spans three-quarters of Atlanta.

Obama has previously said she has family ties to Clayton County dating back to her great-great-great grandmother Melvinia Shields, who was enslaved on a family farm in Rex, Georgia, a tiny hamlet in the region.

Obama released a video on behalf of former Vice President Joe Biden's presidential campaign Tuesday. She blasted President Donald Trump's treatment of the coronavirus pandemic, saying other countries around the globe handled COVID-19 effectively, "but what they didn't have to contend with was this president." Obama said the president has repeatedly "doubled down on division and resentment" in the time since she and her husband left the White House in January 2017.

"Today more Americans have died from this virus than died in the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Vietnam and Korea combined," Obama said. "What the president is doing is, once again, patently false...it's morally wrong, and yes, it's racist."

Newsweek reached out to Clayton County school administrators Tuesday afternoon for additional comments.

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US First Lady Michelle Obama (L) watches as US President Barack Obama (C) is hugged by Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) at the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library April 10, 2014 in Austin, Texas, during a civil rights summit to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI / Staff/Getty Images