Who Was Reginald F. Lewis?

Updated: May 2, 2020

Reginald F. Lewis was a philanthropist, titan and business pioneer. A Harvard Law School graduate, Lewis rose to prominence as a lawyer, financier, and leader of the global food company TLC Beatrice International. Lewis was the first African American ever to close an overseas billion dollar leveraged buyout deal. He acquired an unprecedented global conglomerate of 64 companies in 31 countries, and paved the way for future entrepreneurs and black leaders through his life’s work until his untimely death at age 50.

''There is no doubt that Reginald Lewis’ success paved the way for me, and many others, and I think that really is the test in demonstration of real leadership.'' – Ken Chenault, American Express CEO

Reginald Lewis grew up in Baltimore, Maryland, where he attended Dunbar High School, and was a three-sport, all-star athlete. He was admitted to Virginia State University on a football scholarship, and though he quit the sport following an injury after one year, he remained involved on campus joining the Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity. He also became focused on business and advancing his studies. Lewis was the first person to be admitted to Harvard Law School without formally applying. New York City Mayor David Dinkins appointed Lewis to his Economic Advisory Council. Lewis founded Wallace, Murphy, Thorpe and Lewis, the first African American law firm on Wall Street.

While Lewis was a, highly trained corporate attorney, he also set aside time, and leveraged his expertise as a lawyer, to work as an activist, supporting the civil rights movement. • With a single investment, Reginald F. Lewis became one of the wealthiest men in America. • Lewis used his wealth to help support the African American community, becoming one of the first major funders to Jesse Jackson’s campaign.

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