Ten years after his death, Reginald Lewis’ hometown is honoring his legacy by establishing a cultural landmark. The Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture is slated to open this year. Located near Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, the 82,000-square-foot facility will be the largest museum on the East Coast dedicated to African American history and culture.
The business titan carved his name in the history books when he bought the international division of Beatrice Foods in 1987. It was the largest buyout of overseas assets by an American company, and it made Lewis the first African American to create a $1 billion empire. But the Harvard Law School-educated businessman and Baltimore native was also revered as a committed philanthropist. The same year he became chairman and CEO of TLC Beatrice International, he established the Reginald F. Lewis Foundation, which has given away more than $10 million, including a $3 million grant to Harvard Law School. (Its International Law Center carries his name.)
A $31 million state appropriation and a $3 million match from corporate and private donations were raised for construction of the museum. To date, more than $10 million has been raised, including $5 million contributed by the Lewis Foundation to assist the museum’s educational initiatives.
“There is an African saying that says as long as someone mentions his name, he lives,” says Lewis’ widow, Loida. “With this museum, my beloved lives a long, long time.”