Why Reginald F. Lewis is Important to the Future of Black Capitalism

Two weeks ago, on June 13, Alfred and I had the honor of attending the second annual gala luncheon that served as a tribute to his memory and a fundraiser for the museum that bears his name—the largest African American institution of its kind on the East Coast. (Learn more about the museum at www.reginaldflewis.com.) The event was hosted by Loida Lewis, the iconic entrepreneur’s widow who ran the mammoth enterprise for six years after her husband’s death before voluntarily liquidating the company’s assets, ensuring that shareholders realized “an incredible multiple” on their return per share.

“Selling the company was the toughest thing I had to do,” she told me in an interview in 1999. “I had great reluctance to put the entire company on the block. But I felt that it was now time to complete the work of my late husband.” (Read “TLC’s Final Act,” Black Enterprise, September 1999.) Over the years, she has preserved his mission and legacy by making his biography, Why Should White Guys Have All The Fun?, a New York Times bestseller and a source of inspiration for the next generation of black entrepreneurs. She also mentors young business owners and oversees the 22-year-old Reginald F. Lewis Foundation, which funds universities and charities for communities of color in the United States and the Philippines.

As more than 300 business luminaries in business, finance, and the arts gather on the lavish estate of the Lewis family in East Hampton, Long Island, they bear witness to a celebration of pioneering spirit and youthful audacity. The pioneer was Lee A. Archer Jr., the 89-year-old powerhouse who worked closely with Lewis in financing small and minority companies as head of a slew of MESBICS, as well as a member of the investment group that acquired McCall and Beatrice International. Archer, who also holds the distinction of being a Tuskegee Airman who earned Flying Ace status after he shot down five German Me-109 planes during World War II, was inducted as a Millennium Member of the Reginald F. Lewis Museum. (See Our World with Black Enterprise at blackenterprise.com/television).

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